Society is willing to give certain people a pass when karma screws them over one times too many. We can’t help but have a certain amount of sympathy for someone who only goes to their high school reunion to beat up the bully that once tormented them. It’s that kind of sentiment that makes A Christmas Story and the Karate Kid movies so enjoyable.
On some levels, the X-men as a whole deserve that kind of sentiment. While every other comic book franchise is capitalizing on the success of their movies, the X-men are stuck carrying themselves like a kid with a black eye that Brett Ratner gave them nearly a decade ago. The growing prominence of every other comic book entity not controlled by Rupert Murdoch has made the X-men the superhero equivalent of henchmen to a James Bond villain. They lost Avengers vs. X-men. They lost their top gun when Wolverine died. And now some of them are being retconned out of the X-men’s world because Joss Whedon is at a point in his career where he gets what he wants.
While many prominent X-men characters have been hit by this shift, few have been tormented more than Cyclops. Ironically enough, Joss Whedon was the last writer to really understand that karma needed to take a breather from screwing Cyclops over. The man has lost two wives, he had to give up his son, and he had to make all the hard choices when Charles Xavier wouldn’t. And all the while, others like Captain America and Hank McCoy went out of their way to criticizing him while never once offering to help shoulder the burden.
But that still wasn’t enough. After Avengers vs. X-men, he lost his girlfriend, he went to prison, and now the team he did everything to save hates his guts. If anyone deserves to have a nervous breakdown and take it out on Wolverine’s grave, it’s Cyclops. He even has a chance in Uncanny X-men #32. While he manages to retain his sanity, he probably wishes he hadn’t because that probably would’ve made what happened easier.
This story puts Cyclops at rock bottom again. He was already at this point after the events of Avengers vs. X-men, but he somehow found a way to sink lower after the Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier. He doesn’t just find out that the man he accidentally killed left him the Xavier Institute and all his money. He also finds out from a time-traveling Tempus that he fails miserably to stop a mutant from losing control and destroying everything he loves. It’s like finding out on the first day of his dream job that he not only fails. The job drives him crazy and eventually kills him. Unless that job involves being a Chuck Norris’ stunt man, it’s pretty jarring.
This leads Cyclops through a series of difficult and humbling moments where he has to stand in front of the mutants he’s been teaching and admit to them he failed. He then tries to explain in a calm, sincere manner that it would be better for them to join the Jean Grey Institute while he shut down the New Xavier School. Having left behind their old lives to join his revolution, it’s pretty hard to accept. It would be like Morpheus telling Neo they got the wrong guy just before he’s about to fight Agent Smith.
Since his students are immature teenagers who only recently learned the joys of fighting giant killer robots, they don’t take it well. Their hatred for him is visceral, even if he’s sincere in protecting them. They don’t even give Cyclops a chance to fully explain himself. It’s an emotional moment that shows how Cyclops, despite his shortcomings, was able to inspire these young mutants. Telling them to walk away, even if it’s for the better, requires that he be a glutton for punishment. It even knocks him out at one point. Since he’s dealing with superpowered teenagers, he’s lucky that’s all he suffered.
But the most defining moment for Cyclops came from Emma Frost. Any conversation with an ex-girlfriend is bound to be awkward on some levels, but there’s an extra dimension of emotion involved with these two. Once again, it’s Joss Whedon who is largely responsible for that. His influence is just that great.
During this conversation, Cyclops laments all the ways the X-men have failed to protect the mutant race. They really have tried everything, short of going on Oprah. They started their own country, they had their own asteroid for a while, and they try even tried to join the Avengers. It didn’t work. They’re still hated and feared while nobody seems to be protesting the Inhumans for some reason. It’s a perfectly reasonable observation, but one that doesn’t impress Emma Frost.
It’s Emma who basically pins Cyclops at rock bottom with lead bricks. She reminds him how much she cared for him and how much she believed in him. While he balks at any possible notion that they could be together again, she makes clear to him that he’s not in a right state of mind and hasn’t been for a while now. He’s gone from Peyton Manning to Ryan Leaf, having suffered a few nasty losses and losing his winning spirit as a result. At least he didn’t assault a reporter.
It’s this defining moment that highlights where Cyclops is and where he has to go. The events of AXIS and the Last Will of Charles Xavier finally sink in for him. And now that his still-inverted brother, Havok, has joined him, he has an opportunity to get back on track. That’s the core message in Uncanny X-men #32. It shows Cyclops overdosing on humility, having an intervention, and agreeing to get his life back on track.
It’s a meaningful, relevant story. However, it’s poorly organized in the sense that it doesn’t transition smoothly from one moment to another and it glosses over a few details. It also isn’t going to qualify for a pay-per-view event in terms of action. This story is all about personal drama and while some of it is overdue, most of it still feels meaningful.