[WARNING: Contains SPOILERS for Death of X #4.]

As the Terrigen Mists sweep the globe, creating new Inhumans in their wake, the X-Men have quickly discovered the devastating effects of the alien clouds on the physiology of good old fashioned mutants. Since the tragic discovery of the fatal ‘M-Pox’ tht results, the X-populace has scattered across the globe, even taking refuge in the nether-realm of Limbo for survival. One of the biggest mysteries surrounding the past year were the events of which left Emma Frost and Cyclops tainted in the public eye and brought the X-Men and the Inhumans to the brink of war.

The Death of X miniseries has effectively been filling in those gaps. Throughout the four issue story arc, Cyclops and Emma Frost have declared war against the Inhumans, or at least against the substance that brings them into the world. Unfortunately, their drastic course of action has led to a shocking turn of events which climaxes in the death of Cyclops… but that’s not even half of the story.

A Daring Plan Comes to Fruition

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Death of X #4 reveals the full scope of Scott and Emma’s efforts. The short but exciting mini-event – constructed by Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule and brought to vivid life by Aaron Kuder and Javier Garron – makes strange bedfellows, as Magneto and Cyclops put aside their oft-major differences and work together to stop the Inhumans. It also signals the (brief) return of fan-created character Alchemy. Suffice to say, MAJOR spoilers ahead:

As Magneto disrupts Storm and the Inhuman princess Crystal’s cooperative efforts, Emma and Scott’s team heads to the massive Terrigen mists near the edge of Madrid, Spain, along with the chemically-manipulating X-Men trainee Thomas Jones (Alchemy). The mutant Sunfire flies Alchemy towards the cloud so he can modify it on a molecular level – a job he succeeds at beautifully. Jones is able to rapidly convert the Terrigen mists into a substance harmless to both mutants and Inhumans, but doing so means coming into contact with the mists himself.

As the team rallies around their hero, it’s revealed that Alchemy’s exposure to the substance has given him an advanced case of M-Pox. Despite having saved the day – and countless mutant lives – without even considering himself a soldier in this war, Thomas Jones dies in Scott Summers’ arms.

Cyclops Becomes a Mutant Martyr

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Emboldened by success and charged by Alchemy’s death, Cyclops confronts the Inhuman Royal Family’s strike force. He stands his ground, declaring his intention to disrupt the second Terrigen cloud before it takes more mutant lives. As he stands before them, he professes his scattered identity, claiming to no longer merely be Scott Summers or Cyclops, a leader of X-Men. He tells them that after everything that has happened, the man he was is gone… all that’s left is “the idea of me… and ideas never die,” before beginning to charge his optic blast with Medusa and Black Bolt in his crosshairs.

Medusa can tell that Scott has nothing left to lose even before that final moment, and as Black Bolt – an Inhuman incapable of even whispering, his voice is so powerful – gives her a somber look, she replies with a simple word: “yes.” It’s all the permission he needs, and as Cyclops prepares to launch an all-out assault on the Inhumans, Black Bolt unleashes a devastating aural attack, shredding the X-Men’s fearless leader as both squads watch on in horror.

Roughly a week after the tragedy, a large gathering of X-Men and mutants assemble on Muir Island – where the effects of Terrigen effects on mutants were first revealed – for Scott Summers’ memorial service. As they pay their respects, Emma Frost stands with Cyclops’ brother Havok above the proceedings. She tells him that Scott’s death wasn’t in vain, since both teams have put aside their differences (at least until Inhumans vs. X-Men arrives next month).

She also reveals a shocking twist: Cyclops didn’t actually die in Spain.

A Shocking Turn of Events

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Taking Havok into the lower levels of the Muir Island research center, she brings him to the morgue, revealing the Terrigen-ravaged corpse of Cyclops. Scott actually died – as revealed in the first teaser – from Terrigen exposure weeks earlier. However, neither Scott nor Emma wanted him to be remembered as an M-Pox victim, so she created the elaborate plot, both in an effort to save mutant-kind and rework the memory of the man she loved.

By using a mental projection to suggest that Scott still lived, and still led, Emma managed to create a mutant martyr for their cause as well. While this seems doomed to backfire in the coming months – as Scott Summers becomes an increasingly divisive figure – its short-term effect is at least beneficial.

While the Death of X saga has had its ups and downs, the surprise ending, while somewhat telegraphed, actually enhances the storyline. It also gives Emma Frost some emotional heft in lieu of her overall deception and her collaboration with Magneto. Succumbing to disease may seem like an anticlimactic ending for original X-Men member Cyclops, but it seems oddly fitting – especially after his character’s controversial turn into a killer and extremist in recent years. In that regard, it’s ironic Scott Summers becomes as controversial a character as Magneto…even if mainly for in his post-death actions.

Of course, it certainly isn’t the first time Cyclops has died in the Marvel world. A time-displaced version of Cyclops is still running around with the All-New X-Men and the Champions. Nevertheless, Jean Grey, Wolverine, and other classic characters may return for ResurreXion next spring, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Scott Summers’ death is short-lived. Here’s hoping his rebirth has more of a heroic bent than his final days.

Death of X #4 is currently available in stores and online. Inhumans vs. X-Men #1 arrives December 14.