Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 is… a warm blanket on a frigid night. It’s a nightlight in a room bathed in darkness. It’s a hug from a loved one on a bad day. Basically, Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 is a lot of things that make us feel like everything will be alright in the end.
That is, so long as you’re a certain type of Cyclops fan. Me, your humble reviewer? Well, I guess I’m what you’d call an old-fashioned Scott Summers fan with an edge. I prefer my Slim with Jean Grey, not Emma Frost (there goes half the audience), and I like to see him leading the X-Men–not reviled by them. But at the same time, I was a huge fan of Cyke attitude during his revolutionary phase.
Oh, also, I prefer when he’s not dead (that’ll win back a few readers)!
So seeing him claw out of his grave, among other promising story beats, helped make me feel as though we were finally past a very dark, Cyclopsless era in the X-Men’s publishing history. Set it right indeed, Ed Brisson and Carlos Gomez!
Honestly, it’s hard to talk about this annual, which, by the way, is likely the most-anticipated comic book annual of all time (seriously, can you remember the last time you were excited to read a Marvel annual?), without getting into heavy spoilers. So I’m going to dip into spoilers and commentary after the official AiPT! Cyclops Week gif below. Look at that, I’m respectful of readers who don’t want to be spoiled AND I’m being super promotional in the process!
Last call–SPOILERS AHEAD!
So, Cyclops was wrong. After what seems like a decade of online arguments, Scott Summers himself has settled the debate. And yep, he was wrong. Somebody print up some t-shirts, for Wolverine! Look, I love Scott. I’ve organized a week-long celebration around his return for this very website. But loving a character doesn’t mean looking the other way when they do something you don’t agree with. With that attitude, you might as well go to Washington, D.C., and become a Republican senator.
I kid, Cyclops fans.
But let’s be real. No matter how bad life was for Scott–and all mutants–you can’t spin the murder of Charles Xavier. “He wasn’t in complete control when it happened!” “It was the Phoenix!” “Xavier kind of had it coming!” All valid points but, whatever–that doesn’t excuse the fact that it was just a bad look. So no matter how cool #CyclopsWasRight looks at the end of tweets, I wholeheartedly welcomed Brisson delivering a Scott that realized he’d gone somewhat astray.
That, to me, is the magic of Brisson’s writing in this annual. Cyclops may be a mutant, but he’s always been one of Marvel’s most human characters. And there’s nothing more human and relatable than screwing up, realizing it, accepting that realization and attempting to course correct. And it’s Scott, so you know he’s going to trip and fall multiple times on his way to redemption–and that’s what makes him such an awesome hero.
I realize I haven’t explained how Scott is resurrected. I’ll admit, it’s pretty convoluted and involves characters we’ve never met before and Kid Cable–who we only just met a few months back. But there’s something charming about the way current X-Men creators have to jump through logistical hoops to get out of the traps past writers have put them in. Funny enough, it’s always Scott who has to get out of a marriage to a clone or ditch a son. Now we can add “overcome death” to the list.
But I’ll be honest–and this is the Cyclops fan talking, not the reviewer–I’m not so concerned with how Scott comes back, so much as what he does now that he’s back. Based on what Uncanny X-Men writer Matthew Rosenberg told AiPT!, there’s plenty of reason to be excited (if you’re a certain type of Cyclops fan, of course). But I will say, as far as resurrections go, this ones pretty damn inventive. To Brisson’s credit, his approach to bringing back Cyclops dips into past Marvel stories in fun and unique ways that make you think there was a plan in place all along. I knew there was a reason why I still had my copy of Secret Avengers #26!
Perhaps my favorite part of this story (aside from the fact that resurrected Scott clearly wants to see Jean more than Emma) is how Brisson makes Kid Cable represent every annoyed Cyclops fan in the world. The actions young Nathan Summers takes are exactly what a frustrated fan would do… if they could bodyslide and carry giant future guns. In fact, Kid Cable’s reasoning is so authentic to Cyclops fandom, you could copy and paste his dialogue into a post on a message board and no one would question it.
From an artistic standpoint, I have to say that I was unfamiliar with Gomez’s work–but I very much enjoyed everything on display in this comic. On page two he drops an image of Cyke rising from his grave that’s already a favorite among fans. But across the board, there are striking visuals that are inventive too. Brisson’s script demanded a lot from Gomez–a flashback set in Scott’s teenage years, a flashback set during the amazing Phoenix Resurrection and so on. No matter when in comics history the story took place, the artist nailed the style and tone. I hope this isn’t the last time we see Gomez tackling Cyclops in action. Because, to quote Scott in battle, “I won’t lie… that felt pretty damn good.”
Am I viewing this issue through Ruby Quartz-colored glasses? Sure. Have I offended Emma-loving Cyclops fans with my radical, pro-Jean Grey views? Probably. Does any of this matter? No–well, you let me know in the comments space below. All I know is this annual–like Phoenix Resurrection before it–had the very difficult task of bringing back a beloved X-Men character. And, speaking as a fan who loves this particular character very much, I’d say it did its job very well, considering I finished this tale very excited for what comes next.
What more can you ask for in serialized storytelling?