Buttoned-Up in Outer Space: Exploring The Father/Son Dynamic In ‘Cyclops: Starstruck’
Starstruck, the first trade of the new Cyclops series, which collects the whole Greg Rucka, Russell Dauterman and Carmen Carnero run with the character, sidesteps the adult revolutionary version of Cyclops, who is currently proving to be the only acceptable mutant leader in the Marvel Universe right now – to focus on the teenaged version of his past self.
You see, at the start of All-New X-Men, Beast wrecked the timestream (in classic awful Beast fashion because he’s the worst) by bringing teenaged versions of the original five X-Men into the present day, basically so he could try out a guilt-trip on their present-day versions. This has caused countless problems and a lot of angst, which recently culminated with the young version of Cyclops deciding to race off into space for some quality time with his dad… who just so happens to be a notorious intergalactic outlaw pirate with rad facial hair. Probably the right choice.
This is where the new Cyclops ongoing series kicks off, with the kid onboard a spaceship with his dad and his dad’s friends for company. Early on, the book seems to be gearing towards being an ensemble comedy of awkwardness, with the shy and defensive Scott Summers trying to acclimate to a world where he’s surrounded by aliens all the time, he’s always under attack, and his father is actually around for once. Surprisingly, though, Rucka jettisons the supporting cast after the first issue – including, sadly, the wonderful Hepzibah, one of the best Marvel characters – and focuses the book sharply on the father-son dynamic instead.
Considering the book was expected to be about Cyclops going on high-octane space adventures across the galaxy, the book drops that concept rather quickly. Instead, the book becomes a character study in a remote location, as the majority of this trade has the pair stranded on an island on a deserted planet, with only each other for company. This leads to the best issue of the trade – issue #3 – but also means the book struggles a little to keep the momentum up as it goes along.
The pacing of the series is largely well-constructed. The idea of establishing the supporting cast and then jettisoning them after one issue proves a smart move, as it disorientates the reader in much the same way as it does Cyclops. Like us, he was expecting something different to what he got, and Rucka’s toughest job in the book is making sure this doesn’t feel like a disappointment. By getting us to feel that nervous tension that Cyclops has, he provides a connection and empathy with his lead. Issue #3 of the series is a super piece of work, addressing several contradictions and secrets the characters had been holding from one another since the start.
In many ways, it feels like a thematic sequel to Uncanny X-Men #391, an issue from way back in which Scott Lobdell had the original Cyclops try to reconnect with his father on a camping trip. Whereas that version of Cyclops was trying to make up for lost time, and Corsair didn’t know his son; this issue features a smarter Corsair, who plays things a little cooler this second time round. Their connection as characters feels naturalistic and makes for the most enjoyable material of the book, as Corsair tries to establish himself as a decent father and Cyclops eagerly grasps onto his every word, while not daring to let himself believe half of them. Their bond feels awkward and rough, which stands the book apart from most others – not least because Cyclops is probably one of the only superhero characters who even has a living father right now.
In Russell Dauterman and later Carmen Carnero, who takes over on art duties with issue #4, the book has two talents who are equally adept at capturing the awkward gangliness of a teenager. Cyclops is the highlight of his own series here, as Carnero sticks him with a sense of stubbornness after three issues of Dauterman establishing him as an alternately bright and downhearted kid. The dialogue sometimes struggles to keep Cyclops a teenager, but the character always moves like he’s not quite in control of his limbs yet; he’s got a drooping posture and lolling neck. Their work on his body language keeps the series rolling along merrily, and proves vital for finding expression in a character whose eyes are always covered up.
Rucka brings a commanding sense of authority as a writer, which interestingly makes him the Corsair to Dauterman/Carnero’s Cyclops. The more confident and established presence keeps an eye out over an enthusiastic and bright new talent as they start to make their mark in the world, so to speak.
Chris Sotomayor’s colors play an important role in establishing a style for the series, mostly in the way he refuses to keep to a particular palette. There are a lot of blues and purples in the coloring, but the emphasis throughout is on picking out contrasts, meaning the book is constantly finding new colors to include in the alien backgrounds, alien worlds, the new characters who appear, and even the weather.
Sometimes the book will have a deep red color striking through each panel; other times things appear more wan and yellow. Sotomayor runs a full gamut, making the book feel otherworldly and unpredictable, even once the aliens mostly vanish and the book becomes a two-person character study.
Cyclops: Starstruck is charming as a read-through, and provides enough thrown-off character moments and sparks of dialogue that it’ll likely make for a great re-read even a month from now. Although the fifth issue lacks for content a little, wrapping things up too neatly when they could’ve used some more space to work, the trade forms a controlled whole and gives the new creative team on the series' sixth issue a lot of ideas to work with. There’s a sense of control over the five-issue run, which is why the book constricts at the finale, but the overall narrative heads into unexpected territory, keeps the reader guessing, and makes you feel bad for ever not liking Cyclops.
This first trade proves breezy, yet heartfelt. The creative team never feel like they’re being silly, or making fun of the alien worlds they head into. Rather, they stay grounded at all times -- a level-headed approach to racing through the galaxy. This five-issue trade fits neatly alongside books like Jeff Parker and Salvador Espin’s Exiles, or Kieron Gillen and Stephen Sanders’ S.W.O.R.D., as a potential cult favorite among X-Men books.