When did Cyclops become such a lousy character? When Jean Grey returned, and he happened to already be married to Madelyn Pryor. That’s where I trace it. Even after Jean’s death, Cyclops was still Mr. X-Men and a born leader. However, a needlessly complicated love life made him whiney. Had Marvel let Jean Grey lie in her grave, I think Cyclops would have continued to be a fantastic, stalwart hero, but once Jean came through that revolving door, it was over for Cyclops. This end was expressed in the hideous Jim Lee costume change, from the scalped cowl and long flowing manga hair to the ’90s arms, legs and chest bands.
Forget all that. Lee Black takes Cyclops back to his roots in an out-of-continuity story that pits Slim Summers against –brace yourself — the Carnival of Crime and — wait for it — Batroc ze Leapair! That last mention should make you want to run out to the comic book shop and slap your money on the counter.
Let me assure you that Batroc is the Batroc you know and love. He’s the completely absurd, fun-loving master of la savate, the French art of foot-fighting. He’s the one that has the voice of the French Chefs that attempted to fricassee Bugs Bunny and speaks with ze outrageous accent. He proudly wears one of the oddest costumes known to humankind, with a color scheme that can make the eyes bleed as if poked by his pointy, exaggerated mustache.
Batroc practically writes himself, but you will believe that Cyclops doesn’t suck. Black emphasizes a real problem from the old Kirby/Lee books. Cyclops is a bit of a tight-ass, but that problem has a legitimate catalyst. Cyclops is a born leader, and he’s always watching out for his troops even when they don’t want him to do so. He’s always planning a strategy. As a result, he’s not the most spontaneous guy, but his love for Jean Grey cannot be questioned. Case in point: Scott pushes a hot blonde out of harm’s way and lands on her. He’s totally oblivious that he’s lying atop a hot blonde, and she gets that he’s not into her. So she doesn’t even try. Instead, she defuses the situation with an excellent joke. And Scott — Scott’s just practical as ever.
As the story progresses and Scott finds himself liking his crazy quarry and enjoying the hunt, Mr. X-Men lightens up. It’s very important that Scott loosen his muscles on his own, rather than be indebted to Jean or his fellow X-Men. Self-growth is simply more satisfying and longer-lasting. It’s this Scott Summers that could live beyond Jean. He’s the Scott Summers that could resist D’Spayre and combine forces with Man-Thing. He’s the guy that could toughen out Jean’s death and still be human enough to find love again.
Of course, this story isn’t about death. It’s about fun. Beneath the vivid, bold colors of Jose Villarubia, Dean Hapsiel provides cartoony, highly stylized illustration that’s open and inviting. The characters have all of the proportion of the hyper-realized computer enhanced paintings that proliferate the industry, albeit focused through a unique lens, but none of the visual boredom and a billion times more personality. Princess Python has never been this well depicted. She comes off as a slinky Burlesque bad girl. The mystery villain is a nut and as much of a fashion nightmare as Batroc. Cyclops has one power, but each time he uses it, the artists give that optic blast resonance.
Cyclops, like Iceman & Angel, is a sleeper. Unhyped, easily ignored in favor of the next Big Stupid Event, Cyclops proves to be an ebullient find among the same old, same old.