How did Scott Summers become the man we know? What had to happen in order for Cyclops to become the leader of the mutant revolution?

 It was after all the time-travel shenanigans concerning Mathew Malloy and the reading of Charles Xavier’s last will and testament that Scott Summers decided to close his New Xavier School and put an end to his “Mutant Revolution”. In UNCANNY X-MEN #32, he told Alex that he intended to go into prison for the murder of Charles Xavier, but they soon came to the conclusion that that would not be a satisfying solution, so they started planning something different.

READ: My Review of UNCANNY X-MEN #32!

After X-Men fans were left waiting for almost half a year, UNCANNY X-MEN #600 has finally hit stores on November 4th, and it did, in a way, answer one question: is Scott Summers a savior or a terrorist? We found out what he was planning all along after UNCANNY #32, which was to unite mutantkind at Washington DC to demonstrate the peaceful attitude most mutants stand for. I think, in many ways, this issue was the end to a character arc that has been going on for more than a decade. I really feel like this is the perfect moment to take a look back at the last 15 years of X-Men comics and ask ourselves: how did Scott Summers become the man he is today? What were his motives? What triggered his character development? How did he turn from the Boy Scout he was into the revolutionary he was during the Bendis run?

CHECK OUT: My review of UNCANNY X-MEN #600!

To find the answer to all those questions, we’ll have to go way back in comic book history to the point where all of this began: the point where Cyclops merged with Apocalypse.

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I really think that this is the one thing that changed Scott Summers forever. Having En Sabah Nur in his head made him question the ideals of his X-Men and what they stood for. This is something that would influence the way he acted until the point where he started the revolution against mankind. But let’s take a look at how it influenced him during the NEW X-MEN run by Grant Morrison first.

The way En Sabah Nur changed him didn’t only make him question many of the things he took for granted before, it also made his former life seem small and less exciting. He thought that now he had finally found out just who he really is. This caused the problems within his marriage with Jean, because there were certain things she just couldn’t give him. I think there were darker thoughts within him that she just wasn’t capable of understanding. So, he started a psychic affair with Emma, who would really influence him later on. It’s interesting to see that he refused to sleep with her in Hong Kong, but had no problem to start experimenting with her, telepathically. This shows that he still has a sense of fidelity, but his marriage with Jean really isn’t satisfying to him, any longer. Emma, on the other hand, allowed him to be a person he could never be with Jean. He could finally be himself after what happened with En Sabah Nur.

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It’s also fun to look at what he thought about Jean using her Phoenix powers. He was very concerned that she might use them too often and frighten humanity by doing so. He was worried about the human-mutant relationship because one of his team members uses her powers too often. Which is kind of the exact opposite of the Cyclops we know today, who even wanted Mathew Malloy to keep his nearly uncontrollable and infinitely dangerous powers. This is because in the situation during Grant Morrison’s run, it looked like humankind was on the edge of extinction, with mutantkind being the future, but that has changed within the years. We’ll come to that, later.

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The way Jean was using her powers also made her something he could not control. Cyclops strives for control ever since he accidentally almost killed himself and his brother when his mutant powers first manifested.  He needed Emma to give him the illusion of a controllable Jean he could dominate.

In the end of the NEW X-MEN run, Xorn had conquered Manhattan and killed thousands of people. Shortly before the X-Men came to battle him, there was an encounter between Scott and Emma where he told her he that he had made his decision between her and Jean. We don’t actually get to know his answer, but it’s possible that he decided to get a divorce and start a relationship with Emma. Just minutes later, Jean was killed by Xorn. This was the point where all the doubts about the X-Men came to his head and his optimism and idealism that had been essential to the character before turned into pessimism. Standing next to Jean’s grave, he told Emma that he thinks there’s something about the X-Men that makes other people want to destroy them. At this point, he didn’t see any point in going on, which means he wanted to  not only quit being an X-Man, but also stop trying to have a relationship with Emma. This is where something really important happened: it took telepathic impact from a Jean 150 years in the future to make him want to stay with the X-Men and with Emma. Everything we’ve read in the past few years when it comes to the X-Men; ASTONISHING X-MEN, the Utopian Era, AVX, the mutant revolution, none of this would have happened without Jean giving him confidence and the strength to go on.

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In ASTONISHING X-MEN, it was really his aim to use the X-Men as something they never really had the opportunity to be: a team of superheroes. I really think his relationship with Emma and that he led the school together with her gave him back his optimism, and Jean is responsible for that.

In that very same run, Scott (and the other X-Men) didn’t have a very good relationship with their former mentor Charles, and they questioned him more and more, especially in the Dangerous arc, where they found out he had captured and tortured an A.I. for years just to make her serve as the X-Men’s danger room. Scott is no longer just a soldier of Xavier, but a man with his own ideals. We will see him criticizing or questioning Charles more often from here on, especially when it turns out that Charles had secretly sent another team of X-Men to Krakoa.  Those members all died during that mission, including the third Summers brother, Vulcan. After finding out about that, Scott even told Charles that he’s no longer welcome at the X-Mansion.

We also found out a lot about the deeper parts of Scott’s psyche in Whedon’s run. Especially in the Torn arc, when Emma, tricked into believing that she’s still a part of the Hellfire Club and thus planning an attack on the X-Men, deconstructed Scott telepathically. Together with the reader, Emma visited his Black Bug Room, a place inside his mind containing all his fears and doubts. What we find out here is, as I already mentioned above, that what he probably longs most for in his life is control. Control over his unbelievably dangerous powers (he fears that he might one day hurt other people once the blasts stop coming from his eyes only), but also over his position as a powerful leader. He feels insecure about the women in his life he couldn’t control, and weak for not being as popular and masculine as Wolverine. He knew that his position as a leader had been given to him only out of pity.

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However, during the X-Men’s adventures on Breakworld, he managed to both regain the powers that Emma had taken from him and prove himself as both a powerful leader and a strategical genius. It feels like he might have felt a need to prove himself as a leader.

His role as a commander to the X-Men, more and more independent of Xavier, eventually got even more important as more than 99% of the mutant population was depowered by Scarlet Witch. Keep in mind that in this storyline, HOUSE OF M, where a powerful mutant poses a threat to millions of people, the Avengers felt like they had to protect Wanda because she is an Avenger, and they cooperated with the X-Men. That will be important later on!

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CLICK: Our review of the HOUSE OF M Secret-Wars tie-in!

With mutantkind at the brink of extinction and only one new mutant baby born after M-Day, at first it was important to lead a war against both the Purifiers and the Marauders, as well as his own son Cable in order to secure baby Hope and the future of his species. Though Charles offers the X-Men his help, Scott makes it very clear that the team would be way better off with him in charge. What Charles does not understand in this situation is that it’s time to finally leave the leadership to Scott – and this is where Cyke started making controversial decisions, such as telling Logan to assemble a new X-Force to hunt down Cable (and other possible enemies of the mutants in the future), all of which is being kept a secret from most of the X-Men.

In the end of the MESSIAH COMPLEX crossover, as Cable was identified as a savior rather than a traitor and sent into the future with the mutant baby, the conflict between Charles and Scott was more or less resolved, with Charles admitting that he trusts Scott and respects his decisions.

With Cable in the future and the mutants left waiting for their Messiah’s return and a better future to come, the team reunited in San Francisco, Cyclops telepathically inviting every single mutant left to come to this new safe haven for their kind. At this point, Scott as a leader was, for the first time, responsible for an entire species. The survival of the mutant race would become increasingly important to him from this point on, always hoping for Hope to return, and, in the meantime, commanding X-Force and leading his newly reassembled X-Men. Only a few weeks after their arrival, as Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers breached the city and officially declared the state of war, Cyclops decided to have the X-Men leave their home once again to found a sovereign state called Utopia, out in the international waters on an island consisting of the ruins of Asteroid M. This was a huge setback when it comes to the human/mutant relationships, since San Francisco had almost become a sort of new home where mutants were accepted the way they were. At this point, nearly all of the less than 198 remaining mutants were gathered on one island, with Scott responsible for all of them.

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Where there had been optimism way before, there was once again desperation as more and more mutant deaths made him realize that at this point, there was no way to save his species. This changes with the return of Hope and Cable in the crossover SECOND COMING, where he once again fought a war to cling to the only chance he had to ensure the survival of Homo Superior. In the conflict with Bastion, Scott assembled all mutants, even sending some of them to death (X-Force). This was also where the X-Men find out about the way he has been dealing with threats to his people in secret, the entire time, causing Beast to leave the team.

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In the meantime, the human/mutant relationships became even more problematic. During the FEAR ITSELF event, the Serpent released the Juggernaut upon San Francisco, separately offering both Scott and the major an opportunity to sacrifice Utopia in order to safe San Francisco. Both of the leaders legitimately consider that option, which is a perfect example for how Scott and the mutants are in the role of the victim at that point, forcing him to consider even more controversial methods.

More of his old friends and former teammates turned their back on Cyclops during a disagreement between him and Logan, who then opened the Jean Grey School in Westchester and took about half of the X-Men with him. Wolverine was criticizing the fact that Scott was using children as an army to defend Utopia (even though sending underage children into deadly fights has probably been the X-Men’s longest tradition). We can clearly see that Scott, making controversial decisions that nobody else could do and that were, in a way, necessary to save mutantkind, was losing more and more of his former friends, and that he was willing to sacrifice so many in order to attain the one goal he’s focused on: to save his species. He felt depowered by his incredibly powerful wife and was changed by the darker thoughts within him, turning him into a field marshal of sorts, willing to sacrifice friendships and even the lives of the people he loves, including his son and one of his oldest friends – all because he wanted control over the situation and to give mutantkind a future.

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This is also how we saw Scott going into AVX. Knowing that Hope could be a possible host to the Phoenix Power returning back to earth, he trained her with pretty violent methods, trying to prepare her as well as possible. What he saw in her is a symbol of hope for the survival of the mutant race, idealizing her to a point where he would go with the extreme risk of dealing with the Phoenix Power because he was 100% sure she would be able to control it. This once again shows his obsession and desperation, but also how his opinion about potentially dangerous and extremely powerful mutants within his team changed. As he stated in WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN vol. 2 #4, having been able to free himself from Apocalypse made him think he could deal with anything – even with the Phoenix.p1_28

The moment he attacks Captain America with his optic blast, after Steve entered Utopia in order to take Hope into custody, is the moment where his mistrust against humanity reaches its climax. He has a “we-take-care-of-our-own” attitude at this point, believing that only mutants can take care of mutant problems. He wants full control of his species, feeling driven into a corner by – more or less – a private army storming his island to kidnap a child.

In the end, during the final confrontation with Xavier, it all came together in one shocking moment: his total loss of control about his powers, actions, and mind, his frustration about not being able to protect his species, his anger towards the Avengers, which becomes representative of how he feels like he’s in the role of the victim after the recent developments between humans and mutants, and his desire to be independent of his former mentor. This is where he does something irreversible and kills the man that was like a father to him for most of his life.

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During his time in prison afterwards, he felt nothing but empty. Having succeeded in ensuring the survival of the mutant race, but having done things for which he will never be able to forgive himself, he seriously considered suicide. For many days, he was… purposeless. But, after experiencing racist violence against another mutant inmate, he realized that mutants are being discriminated against more than ever, and in order to save mutant lives, he needed to stay proactive and let Magneto break him out, kickstarting his mutant revolution. Outside the prison, he realized that due to what happened with the Phoenix, he has now lost control over his powers. If you think about it, that’s probably the worst thing that could have happened to him, since he has worked so hard to control the immense danger that is inside of him, and he is, in a way, back to the start.

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Of course, at some point between the death of Xavier and the beginning of his revolution, he had a nervous breakdown, as revealed in THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, and he threatened humanity solely out of desperation, because he felt like there was no other way to end the hatred against mutants. This is the pessimism he already had back when Jean died coming back, but he reacts in a totally different way because he is an even more broken man. Maybe his revolution was even some kind of compensation for his lack of control over his powers. At the very least, he’s trying to repress that for which he cannot forgive himself. Still, I feel like I might need to clarify that this revolution of his was still not him becoming the next Magneto. What he’s trying to do is not create a world in which humankind is either extinct or enslaved by mutants, he’s still trying to create a world of coexistence, as in Xavier’s dream, which he confirmed in WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #40. His aims remain the same, but his methods drastically changed.

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Let’s sum up what we found out: Scott Summers has become the mutant revolutionary he was during the Brian Micheal Bendis run because of…

  • The aftereffects of merging with Apocalypse
  • Telepathic impact with a future Jean
  • His strive for control, making him become more and more of a leader, ultimately responsible for every single mutant, which forced him to make controversial decisions
  • The fact that he questioned his former mentor more and more
  • The desperate situation of mutantkind when it comes to its near extinction and its relationship with humankind
  • A nervous breakdown he suffered from after the events of AVX
  • Having been possessed by the phoenix and the loss of control over his powers

While merging with Apocalypse and the telepathic impact by Jean triggered how Scott would develop from now on, his experiences as a leader during mutantkind’s hardest time made his methods more and more drastic, finally making him become the man we know today, given the purpose to save as many mutant lives as possible with whatever (violent) means required during his time in prison. Questioning his own ideals more and more because of what En Sabah Nur did in his mind, his relationship to Xavier drastically changed – until Scott killed him, in the end, due to getting involved with the Phoenix Force. His nervous breakdown finally leads to a total lack of control where he starts threatening mankind out of desperation and trauma about what he did.

As we can see, Scott Summer’s character arc is arguably one of the most interesting in superhero comics as well as a story about a very conflicted and broken man. And, in a way, the final pages of UNCANNY X-MEN #600 were a beautiful conclusion to that arc. Cyclops has finally found a way to deal with the death of Charles Xavier by uniting mutantkind once again to demonstrate what the real mutant revolution has to look like – proofing that peaceful coexistence is still an option. A great way of wrapping up a story that has gone on for about 15 years – Scott can now deal with his darker side and knows how to react to the increasingly bad human/mutant relations to save many mutant lives. A beautiful moment full of hope.

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Unfortunately, we already know that this hope won’t last that long, after all. We already know from UNCANNY INHUMANS #1 that in the 8 months during UNCANNY X-MEN #600 and EXTRAORDINARY X-MEN #1, Scott has lead an attack on the Inhumans and, once again, fallen into disfavor with the other X-Men and made humanity hate mutants more than ever. He’s also missing from any Post-Secret-Wars X-Men team roster. Anyhow, Jeff Lemire has already stated in interviews that he still has big plans for the character, so let’s see what the future holds in store for Cyclops!

READ: Our review of EXTRAORDINARY X-MEN #1!

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