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The Evolution of Cyclops—How the X-Men's Leader Lost His Heart

How did the X-Men's leader change from compassionate teammate to ruthless tactician?

Being a comic book fan can sometimes feel like an uphill battle; one where you, the reader, are so heavily invested in any given character, concept or title for years; but are virtually helpless in the direction of said character or concept. The direction of a character is left up to the creative team of the title or book—and when you have over fifty years of character history that has changed hands from one creative team to the next, the character is bound to evolve in one way or another.

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Sometimes, characters change so much, that they are hardly recognizable when compared to their first appearance. One example of a very prominent character that has undergone drastic personality changes is Cyclops, the leader of the X-Men.

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This observation sort of came out of left field for me since I had never really been invested in Cyclops as a character, and I hadn't really read many of Cyclops' past appearances, up until recently when I had to read some back issues of Chris Claremont's X-Men searching for Moira MacTaggert's first appearance. It was in the first few pages of X-Men #96 that I was completely caught by surprise.

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Who the heck is this guy? He looks like Cyclops- blue suit, funny visor—but he's not acting like the Cyclops I'm familiar with. The first few panels in X-Men #96 take place after the death of one of Cyclops' former teammates, Thunderbird. It was Thunderbird's second mission, and he failed in his attempt at stopping Count Nefaria- a move that ultimately led to his death. It was a death that happened under Cyclops' watch and there was nothing Scott could do to stop it. In the first few panels of the issue, Scott is depicted walking through the woods, mourning the death of his teammate and the fact that there was nothing he could do to stop it. In fact, he is so overcome with emotion and grief, that he momentarily loses control of his powers.

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Fast forward to the relaunch of X-Force by Craig Kyle and Chris Yost. In the very first issue of the series, and within the first few panels, Cyclops approaches Wolverine and tells him that not only does he want to relaunch X-Force to do the X-Men's dirty work- but that he had already sent Wolverine's "clone," X-23 into battle. X-23 who is a fragile, teenage girl; had been manipulated and used as a weapon to kill and was created as a result of the Weapon X project. Cast aside and treated like less than a person, X-23 falls victim to Cyclops's inability to acknowledge her as anything but a tool.

This Cyclops has a blatant disregard for a child's psychological instability and has no problem treating her like she's always been treated- a weapon. This Cyclops is pretty heartless. Why would he send a fragile X-23 off to join X-Force, a team of mutant killers that have to put their code of ethics to the side to get the job done? Rather than exhibiting the same concern that Xavier did for Scott as a young mutant trying to find himself, Scott has no concern for Laura. This is not the only time Cyclops has nonchalantly sacrificed a team member, either. Towards the end of Second Coming, Cyclops sent Cable along with X-Force forward into the future in order to shut down the Nimrod production line—knowing full well that there would be a good chance the group would not be able to return. The result? Hope is left helpless and without a father, with only Scott to blame. Essentially, Scott killed his own son.

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When did Cyclops go from an emotional and caring team member, to a heartless team leader whose only concern is to get the job done? Cyclops' first real dramatic change in character occurred after X-Men: The Search For Cyclops in which Cyclops was consumed by Apocalypse. Even after Scott was saved by Nate and Jean Grey, Scott was permanently altered. His personality changed and he eventually has an affair with Emma Frost. Hand spirals even further into darkness following the death of Jean Grey.

The question is, must Scott sacrifice compassion for his teammates in order to be a powerful leader? Does this lack of compassion make him a better leader, anyway, or could it be hindering him in some way? What do you think of Scott Summers' evolution from then up until now, and do you think he's making the right decisions for the X-Men? Could his decisions be what cause the 'schism'?