Cyclops, the Marvel universe’s preeminent Boy Scout, tries to lighten up while stopping a handful of D-list villains on a bizarre crime spree in “Cyclops” #1
Lee Black does some things very well in this issue, things that long seasoned pros often miss, particularly in his effort not to try to do too much in one story. To tell just one good little tale within the confines of a comic book is challenging, and many one-shots are ultimately disappointing because it’s a hard thing to write an entertaining emotionally satisfying story in a one-shot. Writers frequently bite off more than they can chew, or try to make stories too relevant (digging up past character histories), or anchor their stories in ways that require knowledge of other stories and continuity. But Black avoids those traps for the most part and goes for a fun little done in one tale: Cyclops, while being broody and worrying he’s too uptight, sees a crime occurring and takes it upon himself to take care of it.
Unfortunately, the quirky characters and humorous style frequently get away from Black, making the issue too confusing and overly busy. The group of misfit villains that Cyclops is trying to thwart are full of crazy personalities. While much of it is fun, in the end they just overwhelm the page and, thus, the story. Too often Black seems to want to go for the extra jokey bit of dialogue instead of storytelling clarity. There are also some story elements that don’t make a lot of sense. Why would some cargo being thrown out and of no use to anyone — except apparently the villains in question — have tracking software on it? Ultimately, a few too many plotting issues, and a bit of over-writing undermines a good idea and fun execution.
However, Dean Haspiel’s art (paired beautifully with Jose Villarrubi’s colors) works beautifully here. It’s a delight to see on the page, and is a perfect tonal match for the light retro feel of Black’s fun story. There are a few places where the art could be a little more clear from a storytelling perspective, like in one of the big fight scenes, but that’s as much an issue of Black’s over-writing as anything else. Haspiel strikes a fantastic balance and breathes great life into the simple story. The interior art is a drastic departure from the cover, an intensely serious Roger Cruz rendering of Cyclops that doesn’t match the tone, point, or even age of the story within. Why comics companies continue to choose cover art that so drastically differs from the actual content within continues to mystify. It’s especially true in a case like this, where the work inside is superior to the exterior expectation.
There’s a lot that works surprisingly well in this one-shot, and for Dean Haspiel’s art alone it’s worth picking up. Unfortunately, some of the great ingredients don’t quite come together as one would hope, and the story ends up overwhelmed by too much of a few of the less successful elements.