The enchantment of comics is a magic of space and time. In their flimsy pages or even less substantial digital codes, the harsh matrix of the universe bends and twists. When the reader flips a page or swipes a screen, the present slides into the past or the future while identity, theme, and plot melt and reform accordingly. This protean timescape has provided one of the chief motive forces of the X-books for quite a while now, ever since the original X-men journeyed to their present dark epoch.
Cyclops concerns the sixteen-year-old Scott Summers, yanked from the past after spending only two weeks at Charles Xavier’s school and made to face his bitter adult self. Traveling into space to help Jean Grey in her encounter with the Shi’ar, Scott finds the father he long thought dead, now a space pirate named Corsair. Together, the two set out on a series of high adventures melding traditional tropes of boys’ adventure with Star Wars , Star Trek, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
The first five-issue run by Greg Rucka with artists Russell Dauterman and Carmen Carnero was a spirited tale of pseudo-redemption as the young Scott Summers, freed from his burdensome history by the power of comics, undertook the journey every teenage boy dreams of at the side of the father every teenage boy wants, a handsome rogue who lets his son fly spaceships, teaches him how to use a sword, praises him extravagantly, and admonishes him to think like a pirate. If the father is wanted by every government and bounty hunter in the known galaxy, well so much the better! If the newfound parent has dark secrets, such as only staying alive through periodic injections of an illegal drug containing intelligent nanomachines crafted for an unknown purpose by an enigmatic shrouded alien race, what son can’t deal with that? And if all of the family doesn’t prove so welcoming, including a space-villain brother who visited the father with his slight but chronic case of death, well it still beats being an orphan at a school for mutants!
Unfortunately, the new creative team of John Layman, author of Chew and recently one of the writers of Batman Eternal, and artist Javier Garron, who drew September’s Batgirl Futures End issue, have taken Scott away from the path of budding space adventurer and toward a route of standard teenage angst. True, the previous team never forgot that Scott was only sixteen, but now that fact has become the central aspect of his character. His first act under the new creative regime is, through inexperience and eagerness, to embroil his father’s crew with an old and deadly enemy, and his insecurity and self-doubt proceed to escalate until he approaches levels of pain and tension reminiscent of Peter Parker in one of his more annoying incarnations. Garron’s pencils, with their exaggerated proportions, don’t help, as Scott often looks more thirteen than sixteen. Chris Sotomayor, the only member of the original creative group remaining, contributes his usual bright, energetic colors, but when combined with Garron’s images the result is slightly cartoonish. It is a regression and an altogether unwelcome one. Luckily, Layman remains firmly committed to the relationship between Cyclops and Corsair, which is as warm and supportive as ever even as Scott descends into nervousness, self-recrimination, and bad luck.
Layman and Garron's first two issues retain glimmers of the fun and energy that made the initial arc of Cyclops an enjoyable story, although not an original or even very memorable one. But those fragments lie buried beneath layers of disagreeable doubt and tension so familiar from hundreds of mediocre teen dramas. Let's hope that this is only the sign of a new crew, just now getting their space legs.