So far, the much-anticipated relaunch of Uncanny X-Men has been a mixed bag. The first ten-issue story arc of the series, "X-Men: Disassembled," played out like a huge a placeholder designed to get us to the good stuff. Characters felt heavily underutilized, the pacing never struck a balance between being languid and breakneck, and two recently resurrected mutant heavy-hitters were on the sidelines because they were busy dealing with their own issues elsewhere. Thankfully, Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 promises to be the start of what we all wanted from this series in the first place, and it all begins with the original X-Man, Cyclops. To which, I say, "Welcome home, Slim."
Scott Summers is a divisive character, who has done some objectively terrible things leading up to his death. When I was buying X-Men comics from the local drug store in my small town in the mid '90s and watching X-Men: The Animated Series, Cyclops was nothing more than a goody-goody boy scout who was the lame foil to the much cooler Wolverine. Summers was a dorkish sycophant to Charles Xavier, and his leadership position within the X-Men never felt earned. It's like that one person at your workplace who is terrible at their job, but they have seniority, so they keep getting raises year after year. Any time he did pull his weight or do something noble, I just thought of him as the Tom Brady (or whoever the man with the golden arm was back in 1995) of the X-Men. He was too good to be ignored, and too square to be loved.
Looking back, I see that thirteen year old me didn't understand the importance of Cyclops at all. (Nor did I get how creepy Wolverine was; dude was a stalker.) Scott was more than just another cog in Xavier's plan for mutants to live in harmony with humans. Before being a leader or an extremist or a love interest for more powerful mutants, Scott Summers was first and foremost a superhero, and a damn good one at that. But it wasn't until seeing him alive and kicking in Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 that I realized how much I had missed him over the last couple of years. The team needs Scott. We need Scott.
Sure we had kid Cyclops from the time-displaced O.G. X-Men, but that was like asking for a Coke and the waiter asking if Pepsi is okay. What we really needed was the version of Scott Summers who has sixty years worth of comic book history in his head. We needed the Cyclops who has done terrible things, but whose heroism has eclipsed them. The mutant leader in the pages of Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 is the Cyclops we need right now. Writer Ed Brisson (who was one of the trio of scribes on the "X-Men: Disassembled") and artist Carlos E. Gomez have brought Slim back to life. While the circumstances of how it came to be are rooted in techno jargon and a lot of suspended disbelief, it all feels right at home in the insane life of Scott Summers.
Brisson handles Cyclops' return with a lot of heart. As Kid Cable explains what occurred, Scott processes the information with a fairly level head, all things considered. The story arc within this issue, surrounding an old scourge of Scott from years ago, is also solid storytelling. It could have just been thirty pages celebrating the return of a fallen hero, but instead it has its own narrative arc that works as one of the better Annuals from Marvel in the last year or so. To be fair, some of the dialogue gets a bit overbearing, and even Brisson's characters seem to have trouble wrapping their mouths around it. ("But wait, it's a comic, how do you know?" That's easy, hypothetical person -- you and a friend read it out loud and see if it flows.)
One of the more stellar moments in this issue revolves around the flashback of Scott as a younger X-Man. The art style and storytelling devices change to that of the Silver Age and reminded me of of Ed Piskor's work. The art is pretty solid throughout this issue, but Gomez's true shining moment is in the flashback sequence. It is rendered so perfectly, you'll wish the entire issue looked the same.
Uncanny X-Men Annual #1 isn't going to necessarily bring those who jumped shipped back on deck, but it is a solid issue and feels like the true beginning of the return of these heroes. Sure their ranks have been depleted, but their fearless leaders is risen. Everything about this issue is a step in the right direction, and the promise it makes could turn out to be a truly great X-Men underdog story.