Warning: This article contains spoilers for X-Men #1, by Jonathan Hickman, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, Sunny Gho, VC's Clayton Cowles and Tom Muller, on sale now.
The X-Men have one of the most complex histories in the Marvel Universe. With the world of Marvel's mutants, the history of Cyclops and the rest of the Summers family is especially convoluted. The history of his long-lost brother Gabriel, or Vulcan, is especially strange.
While he appears as a happy member of the Summers family at the Summer House in X-Men #1, Vulcan is very different from the last time readers saw him. Even though he began as a member of the X-Men, Vulcan had a life filled with tragedy that turned him into an interstellar despot for years. Despite all that, now he's manning the grill at the X-Men's latest cookout.
Vulcan's origin is intrinsically tied in to a key moment in X-Men history. After the first X-Men team was captured on the mutant island Krakoa, Xavier recruited a second team of X-Men that included soon-to-be-mainstays like Nightcrawler, Storm and Wolverine in Len Wein and Dave Cockrum's Giant-Size X-Men #1. They traveled back to the island with Cyclops and rescued the rest of the original team.
All of that happened in the '70's, but in 2006's X-Men: Deadly Genesis, by Ed Brubaker and Trevor Hairsine, it was revealed that there was another team of mutants recruited between the original and the ones who successfully saved the originals. That team failed in their mission, and supposedly their only survivor was Vulcan who eventually revealed himself to be the long-lost third Summers brother.
As that story revealed, the crashing plane that Cyclops and his brother Havok survived in their childhood was not a normal plane crash at all, and their parents were actually abducted by Shi'ar aliens. Their mother was pregnant at the time, but the unborn child was thought dead when the Shi'ar Emperor D'Ken stabbed her in the gut. Secretly, the child survived and incubated in artificial devices that aged him up to adolescence where he discovered powerful mutant abilities to control vast amounts of energy. Although he was sent to Earth to serve the Shi'ar, he eventually broke free of their control where he found solace in the tutelage of Moira MacTaggert.
Understandably, Vulcan's brainwashing, traumatic childhood, and dismay at Xavier wiping his existence from his brother's memory all contributed toward Vulcan going a little crazy. After attacking the X-Men, he flew into space to take his vengeance on the Shi'ar Empire, a quest that culminated not only in Vulcan himself briefly serving as the Shi'ar Emperor and in the intergalactic conflict that the 2009 crossover War of Kings was built around.
In a climactic battle with Black Bolt where Vulcan at first seemed defeated, the third Summers brother emerged to continue the fight. The finale to their epic duel ended with a release of energy so intense that it created a hole in space-time. It seemed to be a definitive and decisive death for Vulcan, and in all the years since there was never a hint of his survival or return.
However, X-Men #1 sees Vulcan return, alive and well and shows him getting along the rest of his family. Presumably revived thanks to Charles Xavier's mutant resurrection effort, Vulcan shows what he's like with the family he never really knew for the first time in this sequence, with all the characters acting amicably toward one another despite their past conflicts there were never really resolved. Even though Vulcan killed his father Corsair in War of Kings, the two seem to be getting along well here.
None of that baggage hangs over the Summers family as they enjoy a meal together that Vulcan helped prepare on the grill. They eat, wash dishes together and trade jokes and stories in a comic that aggressively shows how much the Summers clan is one big happy family.
The whole scene has a surreal quality, especially with regards to each character's personality. Combined with the changes of behavior in many of the other mutants seen in House of X and Powers of X, such as dozens of supervillains like Vulcan suddenly cooperating with the X-Men, something seems amiss.
At this point, it's still not clear if Xavier is somehow pulling the strings to make all of mutantkind get along, if Marvel's newly-cloned mutants have some sort of subservience baked in on a cellular level or if something else entirely is going on. While Vulcan is just one of many X-Men who's acting strangely right now, this could still be his first real chance to live among and serve as a hero along with the rest of the X-Men.