Cyclops: Hero or Villain?

Scott Summers the mutant known as Cyclops; leader of the Uncanny X-Men has been one of, if not the most controversial characters in the Marvel Universe for the past several months. It was last summer’s event series “Avengers vs X-Men” that put Cyclops in the Marvel spotlight. During that series Cyclops took possession of the Phoenix Force, a powerful, and omnipotent cosmic being which he used to recreate the mutant race. Unfortunately, to achieve this goal, Cyclops was put in a position where he had to kill his teacher and mentor; Professor Charles Xavier. These two actions have made Cyclops the most sought after mutant on Earth, not just by both heroes and villains, but by humans and mutants alike. “Avengers vs X-Men” was only the crescendo in Cyclops’ song, the directions he has taken the X-Men in recent years helped build to this point in the character’s history, and has posed the question by many Fanboys; “Is Cyclops a Villain now?”


Cyclops had been running the X-Men and the Xavier School for Mutants along side Emma Frost aka the White Queen since 2004’s “Astonishing X-Men #1” (written by Joss Whedon). Xavier had left the X-Men to help Magneto rebuild the island nation of Genosha, which was destroyed during writer Grant Morrison’s run on “New X-Men”. While Headmaster of the School and Leader of the team, Cyclops’ X-Men faced some of their biggest challenges in the characters fifty year history. In 2005’s “House of M” (written by Brian Michael Bendis) the Scarlet Witch, daughter of Magneto and member of the Avengers used her reality warping powers to remove the powers of 98% of the world’s mutants, thus decimating the mutant race, leaving them an endangered species. After which the United States government turned the Xavier School into a glorified reservation bringing every mutant on record to the Xavier School. It was during this time that Reverend William Stryker and his mutant hate group the Purifiers, attacked the School killing a large number of the student body, thus reducing the mutants numbers even further. The death of the students, decreasing morale amongst the mutant population, and the Superhero Civil War left Cyclops and the X-Men with no hope for the future. Then hope is exactly what they got.


In 2007’s crossover event “Messiah Complex” (written by Ed Brubaker, Peter David, Mike Carey, Christopher Yost, and Craig Kyle) the first new mutant since the House of M was born. There were many different groups and individuals who were interested in this new mutant baby. While the X-Men wanted to save it, some wanted to kill it, and others wanted to eat it! Cyclops refusing to let anyone else besides the X-Men take care of the child led him to create the black ops team; X-Force. Consisting of the the X-Men’s most skilled fighters and trackers, the team helped lead to the X-Men successfully protecting the mutant baby by not only securing it, but by sending the baby into the time stream with the time traveling mutant; Cable, who also happens to be Cyclops’ son from the future. ( I know this is confusing, but try to keep up! If you are completely lost just check out Cable’s wikipedia page. It should help make sense of his story.) This success did not come without a cost. More mutants died securing the baby’s future and the X-Men disbanded. Realizing that their numbers continue to decline Cyclops reactivates X-Force, this time as a preemptive strike force. The team is led by Wolverine to do the things the X-Men could never do, meaning they will take down the biggest threats facing the mutant race, behind the scenes, off the record, and permanently. The 2008 series “X-Force” written by Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost is the first time readers see Cyclops begin to operate in grey areas of morality. In this series Cyclops’ ethics are more in line with Nick Fury’s than Charles Xavier’s. He doesn’t make the decision lightly but in this comic Cyclops orders not only Wolverine but Warpath, Archangel, and the teenaged character; X-23 to kill the X-Men’s enemies before they can murder even more mutants. It’s in this series that Cyclops truly starts to take on the role of General over Superhero. In X-Force readers learn that Cyclops is fighting a war to save the mutant race and that he intends to win by any means necessary. Cyclops actions are just. He has no bloodlust, he doesn’t enjoy killing or asking others to kill. He is not killing to gain power or to oppress the humans. He is killing only to protect his people from extinction. While some readers may view his actions as villainous, others would read it as heroic. After all, the United States Government makes pre emptive attacks all the time in the name of National Security.


Later in 2008 Marvel released “Uncanny X-Men # 500”. In this issue Cyclops reassembles the X-Men, this time in San Francisco, and without the School. Cyclops invites all the remaining mutants on Earth to come to California to live with him and the X-Men. He promises that they will be protected and safe regardless of past loyalties. All mutants can have sanctuary, and he begins running the X-Men more like an army than a Superhero team. 2009 saw the release of the Dark Avengers/ Uncanny X-Men crossover “Utopia”, written by Matt Fraction. During this time in Marvel’s history Norman Osborn aka the Green Goblin is running S.H.E.I.L.D. (Want to know how? Click on this wiki page. It should clear up any questions you have on how Norman got to this position in life.) Osborn has a back door understanding with Emma Frost, that if she can keep the mutant population under control, that he will not come after them. This deal falls apart when there are riots in San Francisco over mutant breeding rights. The crossover ends with the entire mutant population leaving San Francisco to live on an island of their own creating off the coast of California. Cyclops names the island “Utopia” and declares it a sovereign nation. Here he is no longer acting the role of General, for with these actions he is now Ruler of a mutant nation. This notion is cemented in the minds of the reader when Magneto comes to Utopia and pledges allegiance to Cyclops for accomplishing that which he never could. (Uniting the mutant race.)


The following months show Cyclops enter the political sphere, creating alliances with Namor and the nation of Atlantis, the mayor of San Francisco, and Captain America (who assumes leadership of S.H.I.E.L.D. after Norman Osborn’s fall). In 2010 Cable returned to the present with the mutant baby now a teenager named Hope. Hope’s return led to another war between the X-Men and the humans that want to see mutants dead. In a crossover called “Second Coming” written by Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Matt Fraction, Mike Cary, and Zeb Wells; a number of X-Men learn of the existence of X-Force and begin to see that Cyclops is no longer the man they once believed him to be. Cyclops stands by his decisions when confronted by the various X-Men who are uncomfortable with the idea of this team. During this story even more mutants die including the fan favorite X-Men; Nightcrawler and Cable. Both these characters die protecting Hope under Cyclops’ orders, which leads Cyclops to disband X-Force. Cyclops still believes that Hope is the key to saving the mutant race. He is unsure how to articulate this point, but “knows” it to be true. While Cyclops is willing to take this leap of faith other X-Men such as Wolverine and Beast are not. In the 2011 story “Schism” written by Jason Aaron, Cyclops is continuing to play politics by appearing in front of the United Nations requesting that the nations of the world disassemble their Sentinel Programs as there are most likely more sentinels on the planet than there are mutants. The teenage mutant Quentin Quire aka Kid Omega attacks the U.N. which results in an international arms race, with regards to the Sentinel Program. (Don’t know what the Sentinel Program is? This link should help.) The story ends with a Super Sentinel attacking Utopia. Cyclops has X-Men spread out all over the globe fighting sentinels, and the only protection Utopia has is Cyclops, Wolverine, and about a dozen teenaged mutants. Wolverine thinks the highest priority should be protecting the children, while Cyclops thinks protecting their nation is top priority. This disagreement led to Wolverine leaving Utopia to re-start the Xavier School, and Cyclops remaining on Utopia. Each X-man picked a side. This story informed the reader that Cyclops is no longer interested in being a school teacher, he is looking to be the leader of the first mutant nation.


“Avengers: X-Sanction” was a four issue limited series written by Jeph Loeb. It featured Cable’s return and his “last” mission to save Hope, which based on knowledge Cable had from the future, required him to attack and capture the Avengers. The X-Men help the Avengers take Cable down, and with Captain America’s permission, Cyclops is able to take Cable back to Utopia, where Hope is able to cure Cable of the Techno-organic virus, which has troubled him since birth. As she is curing Cable, Cyclops learns what it is that makes Hope so special; she is the next host of the Phoenix Force. In a telepathic message, Cable communicates this fact to Cyclops, informing him to do whatever it takes to protect Hope. Even if it means fighting the Avengers. When the Avengers learn that Hope is the new Phoenix host, they come to Utopia to take her into custody. Cyclops respectfully declines, and when Captain America informs him that taking Hope wasn’t a request, Cyclops begins a war with the Avengers and thus the United States Government. During 2012’s “Avengers vs X-Men” storyline the Phoenix comes to earth to posses Hope. Hope refuses the Phoenix while at the same time Iron Man attacks the Phoenix, weakened the Phoenix posses Cyclops and four other mutants, including Namor, Emma Frost, Colossus and Majik. These five use the Phoenix to make the world a better place, by ending hunger and political conflict. During the corse of the story the Phoenix Five begin to turn on each other resulting in Cyclops victorious, having full possession of the Phoenix Force. The omnipotence drives Cyclops insane and in the final battle between him and the Avengers he kills Xavier. The combined powers of Hope and the Scarlet Witch are enough to “kill” the Pheonix, and restore the mutant race. After this Cyclops is free of the Phoenix Force, arrested, and thrown in jail.


In the five issue limited series “Avengers vs X-Men: Consequences” writer Kieron Gillen explores Cyclops mental state in prison after being possessed. He is ashamed and depressed by the fact that he has killed the man who has been like a father to him. He feels regret and remorse. He did not want Xavier dead, and he is saddened by it. These are not emotions felt by villains. Villains like Doctor Doom regret nothing, and others like Apocalypse enjoy killing. Cyclops does not. In fact he is portrayed as suicidal due to his intense guilt in the first half of the series. Magneto and Majik offer to break him out of prision, but he declines. He needs to show the world that he is willing to pay the price, and that he does not think himself above the law. These are not the actions of a villain but that of a political prisoner. He has the power to ignore the concerns of those around him, and do as he sees fit, but Cyclops is a just man. He realizes that staying in prison will make a stronger statement than breaking out will. Then an innocent new mutant is killed in prison because of Cyclops’ racist inmates, and the prision warden does nothing about it. The murderous inmates inform Cyclops that he is next, and to watch his back. After seeing that the warden, Avnegers, or the American Government will not seek justice for this dead mutant, Cyclops realizes that mutants are truly not treated with the same rights and dignities that humans are. This leads to Cyclops accepting Magneto and Majik’s offer, and he breaks out of prison, but not before punishing the humans who killed an innocent mutant. These actions have led many Fanboys to start viewing Cyclops as a villain. But he is only fighting for mutant rights, much as he always has. He is not targeting innocent humans like a terrorist, he making strategic attacks against those that would oppress mutants.


In Brian Michael Bendis’ “All New X-Men” Cyclops works with Magento and Majik to free Emma Frost from U.S. authorities, furthering his status as an outlaw in the story. These four are currently working together to save new mutants who have extreme reactions to their mutant powers activating. In the comic, Cyclops states that they are fighting for the mutant revolution. Now a disgraced former politcal leader with no country to represent, Cyclops’ actions are being viewed more in line with that of a terrorist rather than a Superhero. Having been rejected by the X-Men, Cyclops is now operating on the fringe. He is no longer the leader of the mutant race and his ideas are being rejected by it’s heroes. He is working with former mutant terrorist Magneto, and the X-Men are not really sure what he is up to. This new status quo has led many a Fanboy to now view Cyclops as a villian, while others view him as a revolutionary.


This Wenesday, February 13th, 2013 Bendis will relaunch the comic “Uncanny X-Men” under the Marvel Now! banner. This series will follow Cyclops, Magneto, Emma Frost, and Majik’s mission, whether it continues to be a just mission or a terrorist mission remains to be seen, but you can bet X-Fans everywhere will be reading.




3 responses to “Cyclops: Hero or Villain?

  1. Dude is such a hero, I want him to be a villain, just because I’m tired of how dang heroic he is. But a villain he is not.

  2. Master Po: Where is evil? In the rat whose nature it is to steal the grain. Or in the cat, whose nature it is to kill the rat?
    Grasshopper:The rat steals. Yet, for him, the cat is evil.’ –
    MP: And to the cat, the rat.
    G: Yet, Master, surely one of them is evil.
    MP: The rat does not steal, the cat does not murder. Rain falls, the stream flows, a hill remains. Each acts according to its nature.
    G: Then is there no evil for men? Each man tells himself that what he does is good, at least for himself.
    MP:. . . a man may tell himself many things but is a man’s universe made up only of himself?
    G: If a man hurts me and I punish him, perhaps he will not hurt another.
    MP: And if you do nothing?
    G: He will learn he can do as he wishes.
    MP: Or, perhaps, he will learn that some men receive injury but return kindness.
    -Kung Fu TV Series

  3. Pingback: New Comics Released 2/13/2013 | Unsolicited Fanboy Opinions·

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