“Cyclops” #12 is deep into “The Black Vortex” crossover — almost at the end, in fact — and, though the action of the plot is huge, John Layman uses the issue to give a tighter focus on teenage Scott Summers, Iceman and Groot as they attempt a prison break and an escape from the hands of Mister Knife. It’s a good use of plot to reflect on character as Layman uses the dire nature of the circumstances to force Scott to step up and be the leader he knows he can be.
Much of the series has followed Cyclops as he happily fell in line with his father, a man he had been dying to know throughout his childhood. Through most of “The Black Vortex,” Scott has been separated and sitting in the gulag aboard Mister Knife’s magic spacewhale ship, waiting for dad to come save the day. Layman lets Summers fantasize about the rescue, a big third-act action sequence worthy of a “Star Wars” film, the whimsy of a child who awaits permission to be saved. During Layman’s tenure, Scott has relaxed into the role of son but at the cost of his own independence. By removing the safety of his father, Layman forces Cyke into action and, as he contemplates using the Black Vortex, it takes another fantasy sequence of his father granting him permission to do so in order for him to jump forward. Daydreaming is the province of the young and Layman allows the character these moments in the midst of chaos to help him decide who he wants to be.
Javier GarrÃ³n revels in the designs and action, creating a unique cast of oddballs aboard the ship and rendering the Vortex-transformed heroes in fun, video game-influenced costumes. The teens look like teens in both stature and reaction throughout, which is a vital part of what makes this issue work. As they escape into a room full of enemies, there are no less than 50 characters on panel with almost as many individual designs, each cleanly and clearly rendered without drawing attention away from the focus of the panel. The page layouts are both European- and McFarlane-influenced, beautiful close up insets of character reactions mixed with full page scenarios flashing back in Scott’s mind, his face silhouetting the height of the action.
The issue ends on an upbeat, slightly cheesy note with Scott transformed into that which he’s wanted to be: a confident, well-balanced version of his future self who he met after traveling to the present. The modern day Cyclops is at his nadir in “Uncanny X-Men” right now, wandering the empty halls of his defunct headquarters, leader of a revolution that never existed. Young Cyclops now roams the spaceways as an adult full of confidence and power, instilled in him by the opportunity he’s been given to connect with his father in a way the modern version of himself never could. The question that has floated in the background of this series has been the classic Nature vs. Nurture, and it’s clear that Layman believes that Nurture has done more to develop the Nature of Scott Summers than his own lonely childhood ever could.
Readers looking to find the next big step in the plot of “The Black Vortex” might not see this issue as anything more than moving pieces back on the board: the Vortex is juggled to Captain Marvel so she may have a crack at using it as a plot device in her own crossover issue and the three subjects of the issue are finally back in the fray with the rest of the Guardians and X-Men. Readers who have followed Cyke down this path will see a big step forward for the titular character, understanding the role his father has played in his life and allowing that to give him confidence to take control of it himself.