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Cyclops #3 – Review

By: Greg Rucka (story), Russel Dauterman (art), Chris Sotomayor (colors)

The Story: Honestly, why wouldn’t you get high if you’re stranded on an empty alien planet?

The Review: Because I’m nothing if not a party animal, I just read an article on the value (or vice) of sentimentality in fiction. While I get the folks who say it’s a cheap way to emotionally manipulate an audience into thinking there’s more story than there really is, I personally think it’s no evil unless it takes over the story entirely. We read for an emotional experience as much as for an intellectual one, so if the relentlessly cerebral In Search of Lost Time is allowed to exist, why can’t Becoming the Stars?

Anyway, it’s kind of interesting to think of all this having just come from Sandman: Overture #3, which can only be described as abstract, and then plunge into Cyclops #3, which is almost pure emotional indulgence. There definitely is a plot at work: the Summers men experience an inexplicable malfunction mid-flight and crash-land on a barely habitable planet. This is the prelude to bigger developments ahead, I’m sure, but for now, it’s all about Chris and Scott bonding in a deeper way.
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Cyclops #2 – Review

By: Greg Rucka (story), Russel Dauterman (art), Chris Sotomayor (colors)

The Story: A chocolate milkshake. For this Scott had to travel halfway across the galaxy?

The Review: With comics these days determined to stay as dark as possible, it’s rare that a given issue makes you feel just purely happy, no strings attached. Even the most lighthearted, comedy-driven titles feel this need to have some kind of edge, like they’re not fully confident that readers are capable of enduring cheerfulness without a little cynicism or irony. Sugar, it seems, can’t be consumed without a spoonful of medicine anymore.

If for nothing else, Rucka merits praise for allowing one of the most star-crossed characters of the Marvel U to just have a grand old time, forgetting past and future tragedies. For personal reasons, the vignettes of Scott and Chris enthusiastically exploring the galaxy and enjoying father-son time touched me deeply, but I doubt anyone else can read them unmoved. If you know anything about what Scott’s grim history, your heart may very well melt watching him laugh with pure joy as he learns how to land a spaceship, his dad tousling his hair.
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Cyclops #1 – Review

By: Greg Rucka (story), Russel Dauterman (art), Chris Sotomayor (colors)

I have a real soft spot in my heart for Cyclops. Growing up and watching the X-Men cartoons on Fox Kids—is that even a thing anymore?—for some reason, I resonated with the visored hero more than any other mutant. Maybe because we were both four-eyes, I don’t know. As I got older and learned more of his complicated, often tragic history, I couldn’t help feeling that somewhere along the way, he became the X-Men’s official punching bag and sad sack, all in one.

Not being an avid X-Men follower, I have no idea how or why a teenaged Scott Summers got himself into the present, but I’m happy to see him nonetheless—happy and worried. Happy to see he still has the capacity to be happy, considering the dark, unstable crusader of a man he is now. Worried that seeing his unbelievably grim future (“…I grow up to be a maybe not very nice guy…Jean and I get married and then get miserable…”) will depress him before his time. So good on Rucka to have Scott keep his eye on the positive: “My dad is alive.

And how great is it to have an ongoing father-son series? Parental relationships don’t get much exploration in comics, mainly because it’s all the rage to orphan protagonists these days, and also because family interactions take time away from the main business of superheroing. Christopher Summers is an ideal father figure in this regard; as the confident, adventurous Corsair and leader of the Starjammers, he’s pretty much a superhero himself, one with years of experience on his adolescent son. That gives him a rare opportunity here to mentor Scott in a way he never got to when his son was this age the first time around.

There’s something inherently, wishfully sweet about this idea, of an absent father getting a second chance to be there for his son during a critical age, and of a lonely son finding and spending time with his long-lost father. Clearly, this space road trip Chris and Scott are embarking on is going to be a wild, crazy ride: “I’m programming a random set of thrilling galactic destinations. Six wonders of the universe for us to behold. You pick.” But beneath the fun and games, there’s a certain poignancy in knowing this may all end up as nothing more than a cherished memory of a what-might-have-been.
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Uncanny X-Men #20 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer); Chris Bachalo (pencils & colors); Tim Townsend, Wayne Faucher, Jon Holdredge, Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba, & Al Vey (inks)

The Story: Cyclops has declared war on S.H.I.E.L.D. and his opening gambit is a ballsy one indeed.

The Review: There are two ways to look at the war between the New Xavier School and S.H.I.E.L.D. On one hand the book has been building to this moment for twenty issues, on the other it took twenty issues to get here and we still have no assurance that things will be resolved any time soon. Both are valid and illustrate one of the key issues that Bendis has on this series, balancing the future and the present.

Many of this issue’s moments don’t make sense in themselves requiring further developments or the clarity of hindsight. Mystique’s continued plotting, for instance, can intrigue but really offers very little to a reader. This same pattern plays out again and again, whether in Hijack’s home or at the New Xavier School. At the same time, however, much of Bendis’ best writing doesn’t expand the scope of the story, but deepen it. Even in the same scene I just mentioned we find biting dialogue, like when Sabertooth asks how much longer Mystique will continue impersonating Dazzler and she responds, “Until Scott Summers is a party joke and S.H.I.E.L.D. is sold for parts. So I’m thinking until next Friday.”

Even if it doesn’t rank among his best, Bendis’ dialogue lives up to his lofty reputation. When it comes to engaging a reader in the moment, this issue really is quite spectacular. Brief scenes like Scott’s confrontation with an old teammate can feel very substantial. Admittedly that example is rather text-heavy but, while there is a bit of harried visual storytelling, there’s such tension in the dialogue that you might not be able to help getting sucked in. That’s a quality that Bendis has been shooting for for a long while, but it’s very much present in this final scene and the central confrontation of the issue.

It’s clear that Bendis saw Scott’s appearance on the helicarrier as the core of this chapter. Unfortunately a side effect is that most of the rest of the issue is a bit dull, but you can’t deny the power of this sequence. There’s perhaps a little too much time spend on Director Hill’s romantic preferences, but rarely has Scott’s cult of personality been clearer or Bendis’ grasp of his characters’ psychology more apparent.
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Uncanny X-Men #18 – Review

By: Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Marco Rudy (artist), Val Staples (color artist)

The Story: Cyclops finally starts speaking clearly, just in time for the world around him to stop.

The Review: Brian Michael Bendis’ dialogue seems to come in two general forms, razor-sharp character work or droning back-and-forths, and generally you can tell if you’re reading a good Bendis issue or a bad Bendis issue based on which one you get. Of course, there’s always an exception that proves the rule. This issue is that exception.

You see, despite belonging to the prior category, this issue suffers from a myriad of serious problems. After the dramatic events of the past two issues and the accompanying pruning of the team, Cyclops’ X-Men return home to find the All-New X-Men missing, the result of the “Trial of Jean Grey” storyline in their own title. Seeing as this title has no part in that crossover, and thusly nothing to say about it, Bendis retreats back in time to when the original X-Men arrived at the New Xavier School and, effectively, engages in some house cleaning.

It’s a bizarre choice to flashback only to lead back to the present day. The flashbacks don’t particularly benefit from the context and the jumps through time quickly become dizzying. I could easily imagine a new comic reader getting lost. One of the strangest elements is how much of a retcon this feels like, despite Bendis writing the entire story. The events of this issue are interesting, if only in that way that addictive web surfing is, but they don’t feel like natural additions to the story. It also highlights how irrelevant the O5’s move to Cyclops’ school was.

Still, as I mentioned, the character work is up to par with the past few issues. Cyclops’ conversation with Kitty is especially raw. It’s a solid scene, if one that really should have played out the first time someone accused Scott of killing Charles Xavier – which reminds me how many times people refer to “Charles Xavier” in this issue. You never called him that when he was alive…
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X-Men Legacy #17 – Review

by Simon Spurrier (Writer), Koi Pham (Artist) Rachelle Rosenberg (Colorist)

The Story: David Vs. Cyclops in a big fight. Who shall win?

The Review: In the last review, I talked about action in super hero comics and their necessity. I talked about how many writers sometimes took the action to the forefront without putting the emphasis on the characters participating in the action shown and how Simon Spurrier had somehow made a smart choice in always putting David in importance above everything else. It was a nice issue, yet it could have been better.

As it turn out, Spurrier knew this quite well, as while the action continues in this issue, it becomes much better. This is due to two factors: the focus on the battle between Cyclops and David and the numerous thoughts of David being written for the readers enjoyment. This provide an unilateral voice to the whole issue that brings many thoughts to a single subject, which really shows how Spurrier’s take on David is fascinating.

Despite the slow pacing of the fight and how more than half of the issue is Scott Summers and David Haller trading blows, the constant narration by David bring out his psychology and his philosophy out front. How David sees Cyclops, how a fight really is and the fashion in which he envisions the whole brawl is nothing short of character-defining, making this character move toward a new step in his evolution. As the fight evolve, so does the readers understanding of David, which was really well-told even before this issue.
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X-Men #5 – Review

by Brian Wood (Writer), David Lopez, Cam Smith (Artists), Laura Martin (Colorist)

The Story: Cyclops and Jean are on the run as several members of the X-Men try to get them back.

The Review: Big crossovers are both a boon and a curse for any book. While many readers that aren’t normally picking up the book shall try out something different in order to gain the full story, the story they may want to read does not always mesh with what went before in this particular title. It’s a double-edged sword that is best handled with care and that may cause more harm than good sometimes.

Unfortunately, this is what happens here as Brian Wood’s X-Men book serves as another chapter in the Battle of the Atom big crossover. What is normally a team showcasing the strong and diverse females from this particular corner of the Marvel universe ends up servicing the story instead of focusing on what make it different. It results in something that tries really hard to please the X-fans and those who wants the next big thing, yet stumbles in some small parts.

It’s not all bad, of course, as there are some parts that continue the strong characterization that Wood is able to give to some of the cast, like Rachel and Kitty Pride, who discuss being left behind to watch the school as the rest of the X-Men goes in search of Jean Grey and Scott Summers. The conversation they have feels like a normal discussion instead of an exposition-heavy dialect that only serves the story and not the characters, which is always good to see in such a book. However, those characters soon come clashing against the story as they merely arrive to grind the story to a halt, give a good ”the reason you suck” speech to the others X-Men and this resumes their roles for the story in this issue. They are well-written, yet their purpose for this issue seems a tad forced and clash against the pace of the crossover a bit.
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