Thursday, July 31, 2014

Scanned Thoughts: Cyclops #3

I love vacations as much as the next drunk, but I’ve had more than a few go horribly wrong. Sometimes it happens because I stayed in a shitty hotel room that had no hot water, no cable, and more semen stains than towels. Sometimes it happens because someone accidentally brought light beer. I believe it should be legal to bludgeon those people with hammers, but there’s a difference between an honest accident and keeping a secret. For O5 Cyclops, he’s on a vacation that any Star Trek fan would gladly give their left testicle to go on. He’s cruising around the galaxy with his father, meeting hot alien girls and raiding Badoon space ships. It has made for the kind of quality father/son time that we don’t usually see in comics because apparently, quality father/son time is about as rare as vibranium.

But as well as Corsair has done for himself, he’s still keeping a secret from his son and that secret has to do with that lingering tidbit that has been touched on yet not explained: he’s supposed to be dead. O5 Cyclops isn’t old enough to understand that death is a revolving door at a discount whore house in the Marvel universe. He has no idea that his father has been beating off the Grim Reaper in secret. Sooner or later, he’s going to have to come clean and Cyclops #3 promises to leave him with little choice. I still say it’s not as egregious as bringing light beer to a family reunion, but that’s just me.

It might end up having to be sooner because while O5 Cyclops is a teenager, he’s not stupid. He’s going to pick up on signs that his father is keeping something from him. And being a teenager, he’s definitely going to pick up on it when it involves drugs. I’m not sure if he was subjected to the same anti-drug PSAs back in the past, but I imagine Charles Xavier made it a point to not have his X-men get high. In addition to his father possibly being a drug addict, he has also noticed that no matter where they go, some alien bounty hunter is there waiting to frame their heads and drink whiskey out of their empty skulls. Teenagers might not have the knowledge or experience of adults, but they’re smart enough to know when something just ain’t right.

O5 Cyclops, who had been documenting all the ways this shit ain’t right in a journal, hasn’t yet confronted his father about this issue. He doesn’t get much of a chance because while he’s still dressed in pajamas, their stolen Badoon ship decides to go batshit and they crash land on some planet with purple skies, blue trees, and three-headed cows. It’s basically the cover of a Jimi Hendrix album. But to O5 Cyclops’ credit, he doesn’t lose his shit. He’s an X-man. Planes and spaceships crashing is right up there will killer robots in basic X-men training. It’s a rough landing, as would be expected. Corsair assures his son that he has crashed plenty of times. Being a pilot and a space pirate, that’s not something to brag about. He even claims he has crashed on worse planets. Again, that’s nothing to brag about and O5 Cyclops is keen to remind him of that.

Once they emerge from the wreckage, they take in just how fucked they are. There’s no way the ship is going to fly again. They’re stranded on an alien planet with limited supplies and no hot alien women for them to seduce. It’s pretty bad. O5 Cyclops even admits that he’s scared. That’s saying a lot for a guy who recently got up in Gladiator’s face and told him to piss off. But it’s a nice way of showing that while he might be the leader of the X-men, he’s also still a teenager. That’s something we really don’t see much from adult Cyclops. It’s pretty hard when an adult Cyclops was doing things like leading the entire mutant race, fighting off Sentinels, and boning Emma Frost and Jean Grey. O5 Cyclops hasn’t become that man yet. He still leans on his father.

It’s pretty bad, but there’s another major reason why they should be prepared to shit their pants at a moment’s notice. Apparently, the reason why some alien thug bounty hunters were always waiting to pounce on them was because their stolen Badoon ship had a tracking gizmo on board. That means if someone is going to come by and rescue them, it’s going to be bounty hunters and not the space equivalent of the Coast Guard. It’s basically the premise of a much more exciting version of Cast Away.

This father/son road trip in space has now become an impromptu camping trip. It’s not the best circumstances under which to do a little father/son bonding, but it’s not the worst. Sure, it would help if they had some fishing poles and a six-pack of beer, but they find a way to make due. They set up a camp, start a fire, and learn the lay of the land. It’s not Bear Gryles in that they haven’t resorted to drinking their own piss yet, but there are no alien snakes or tigers yet. So it could definitely be worse.

Before the situation can get any worse, O5 Cyclops decides it’s probably as good a time as any to confront him about the drugs he’s been shooting up. He’s not in a place where he can just buy him some ice cream or a new X-box to shut him up. He has to come clean now. For O5 Cyclops, it’s overdue. But it’s even more overdue for everyone else because this has been an ongoing plot for a while now. Hints have been dropped, but explanations have been more lacking than the last two seasons of Heroes. Now Corsair, knowing a teenage son is prone to making some fucked up assumptions, comes clean.

He reveals that these drugs he’s taking aren’t the good kind that make people feel like they’re resting between Pamela Anderson’s breasts while sipping margaritas. These drugs are keeping him alive. He confirms what others pointed out during The Trial of Jean Grey. He was indeed dead. He was as dead as Adam Sandler’s chances of winning an Oscar. But he’s alive now and the only way for him to stay alive is to inject himself with illegal alien nanomachines that some alien authorities find scary as hell. That, or they just watched Termiantor and the Matrix way too much. It still sounds slightly less risky than some of the weight loss drugs I see advertised during football games.

But what gives this revelation emotional weight is the reason Corsair gives for keeping this from O5 Cyclops. He didn’t want to share the story about how he died. Seriously, who wants to tell that story? Who would even imagine that it would come up? For Corsair, this involves revealing more unpleasant stories about how O5 Cyclops has another brother, who happened to be ripped from his mother by D’ken before he killed her. It also involves revealing how his little brother went batshit crazy, went on a murder spree, and ended up killing him. O5 Cyclops just learned his father was alive. Now he has to deal with having a deranged little brother. That only promises to make it even harder around the holidays.

It’s not a bullshit reason to keep this sort of thing from his teenage son. It’s not like he kept knowledge about condoms and credit card debt from him. Corsair takes it even further though, saying that the rest of the Starjammers refused to just let him stay dead, another victim of his deranged son. So thanks to Hepzibah, they exhumed his body and brought him back to life with help from The Shrouded. I don’t know what The Shrouded is, but their work on resurrection must be sub-standard because they only brought him back to the point where he still needs drugs to keep himself alive. It’s either that or Corsair had a really lousy HMO.

This is a pretty important moment and not just because it’s touching in how a father comes clean to his son in a way that doesn’t involve one of them losing a limb like in Star Wars. It also closes a pretty gaping plot hole that had been lingering since The Trial of Jean Grey in that it revealed just how Corsair came back to life. There are enough egregious plot holes in comics these days. Each one that gets resolved, no matter how trivial, can only improve the tangled web of bullshit that is modern comics.

Now with this issue addressed, Corsair and O5 Cyclops and focus on more immediate concerns, namely Corsair’s limited supply of this drug that’s keeping him alive. He says he only has enough doses to keep him alive for another 27 days at the most. He basically has about as much time as it takes for someone to go through a typical play-through in Skyrim. That’s hardly enough time to help reassure a teenage boy that he’s not going to grow up to be a complete asshole, but that won’t stop him from trying.

Corsair doesn’t stop just at filling gaping plot holes either. He’s too much on a role, that or the drugs he’s taking are just that awesome. He goes onto explain why he never came back to Earth. He points out how being a slave in the Shi’ar slave pits and watching D’ken murder his wife in front of him fucked him up in ways that made him ill-suited to be a parent. It’s not an unreasonable excuse. When a man is that pissed off at aliens, he just can’t put in the time and energy necessary to raise his sons in a way that won’t scar them for life. It’s an emotional moment for Corsair and he hasn’t had many. It’s hard when he’s got a hot alien woman all over him, but it’s the kind of humility that goes a long ways, even with teenagers.

That’s not to say that O5 Cyclops shrugs it off. He rightly points out that as messed up as he was, his sons still needed him. He saw what his adult form became. That version of Cyclops probably could have benefited from having his father around. It’s a powerful moment and one that feels like it should have happened years ago because Cyclops has had moments with his father in the past. They’ve just never been done this well. But if seeing Gal Gadot in her Wonder Woman costume at Comic Con this year has taught me anything, awesome shit is worth waiting for.

It might be overdue, but it makes for a very satisfying moment. While this time didn’t involve hot alien women or epic battles against space pirates, it did something just as profound. It had a father/son moment full of painful secrets and unpleasant revelations that didn’t end in a Hamlet rip-off. Corsair and O5 Cyclops just had a nice, honest conversation in the midst of a shitty situation and it ended up with them getting closer. They may only have 27 days left so they don’t have time to be assholes to one another. It’s sad that it takes these kinds of fucked up circumstances for a father and son to share a meaningful story, but it’s still very satisfying. In an era where every hero and villain is so damn vindictive over some pretty petty shit, this is quite an accomplishment.

This had all the makings of one of those trips where someone enters the wrong address on a navigator, the car ends up running out of gas, and the actual destination is in the next time zone. Situations like this that involve usually end in the kind of yelling and death threats usually reserved for an episode of Jerry Springer. I’m sure most fathers would want to strangle their sons Homer Simpson style if they ended up stranded in the middle of nowhere and vice versa. But that’s not the situation we got with O5 Cyclops and Corsair. Instead, we got a quiet moment where Corsair comes clean to his son, revealing everything he had been keeping from him. In some ways this counts as a post-death bed confession of sorts, which I imagine is fairly common in the Marvel universe. Corsair tells his son how he died, why he didn’t return, and that he had a long lost brother that he never knew about. It’s some pretty heavy shit to lay on a teenager who already learned he grows up to be somewhat of an asshole. But it’s done in a way that is heartfelt and honest. This doesn’t lead to the usual, "You have betrayed me, father! I shall dedicate the rest of my life blaming you for all my problems!" It ends up bringing O5 Cyclops and his dad closer while also filling in some outstanding plot holes that have been lingering since The Trial of Jean Grey. It’s not going to astonish anybody with action or epic struggles. But it will give everybody that reads it a warm and fuzzy feeling inside in a way not found outside the ending of "Field of Dreams." Cyclops #3 gets a 9 out of 10. A story about a teenage boy hanging out with his father isn’t usually associated with great stories. But in this day and age where too many fathers end up becoming Darth Vadar and too many sons end up becoming George W. Bush, it’s epic in its own special way. Nuff said!

1 comment:

  1. That was really nice and sweet. A nice little heart-to-heart between a father and son with unusual histories.