[Warning: contains SPOILERS for All-New X-Men #18.]
The previous year has been nothing if not hellish for the X-Men. Not long after the Marvel Universe seemingly remade itself during Secret Wars, the bastions of mutant rights discovered that the Inhumans’ Terrigen clouds – which have circled the globe since Black Bolt set off a bomb to halt Thanos’ attack on Attilan – were poisonous to mutants. They first stumbled upon the true consequences during the Death of X miniseries, when the team responded to Jamie Madrox’s distress call, discovering Multiple Man dying on Muir Island. Double-checking the tests with Beast revealed the true cause of his M-Pox death was Terrigen.
It was then that Cyclops and Emma Frost came up with their daring plan. Using Magneto to distract the Inhumans, they took a small team to Spain – which included the fan-created character Alchemy, who could change the molecular structure of most known compounds – and destroyed the first cloud. The Inhumans arrived too late to stop the X-Men, but when they confronted the team, Scott Summers stood his ground and was shredded Black Bolt’s catastrophic vocal chords.
In the aftermath, both groups formed a tenuous alliance to seek a peaceful cure. In spite of their truce, Cyclops became one of the most hated mutants on the planet. At the same time, his sacrifice also inspired some mutants to action, especially after Beast informed the assembled X-Men that Earth’s Terrigen levels were about to reach saturation levels, making the planet uninhabitable for anyone with an X-gene.
Young Cyclops Struggles with His Image
Displaced from his own era, the younger version of Scott Summers found that everywhere he traveled, someone had an opinion about him or at least his namesake. When he tried to join the Champions, they found it difficult to trust him due to his predecessor. For the most part, though, he spent the next months after Death of X trying to distance himself from the crimes attached to his name, but the impending war with the Inhumans brought him face to face with those demons.
As the situation grew critical, Storm, Emma Frost, Magneto, and their respective teams plotted a reluctant but desperate attempt to remove the Terrigen from play. Cyclops’ martyrdom became an unspoken rallying cry. When the X-Men attacked New Attilan, at least as portrayed in All-New X-Men #18, Scott comes under heavy fire from angry Inhuman attackers, who see him as a genocidal maniac in the making. The X-Men’s victory at New Attilan only served to remind him of his predecessor’s misdeeds.
After the battle, Cyclops finds it nearly impossible to escape his forebearer’s actions as many of the mutants he fought alongside still don’t know what to make of him, and news sites continue to dub Cyclops to a “mutant Hitler.” Just when it seems like his nagging doubts the past are about to consume him, the Inhuman counter-strike begins.
An Inhuman Sneak Attack
After the X-Men’s surprise attack – which removed key players from the board, including Karnak, Black Bolt, and Crystal – the Inhumans begin to regroup. Iso and Torch manage to destroy the Forge’s Terrigen-destroying machine and muster their worldly allies, including Ms. Marvel, Moon Girl, and Mosaic, to take the war to the mutants. Capable of possessing almost anyone he comes into contact with, Mosaic is charged with swiping a blackbird from the X-Men. He sneaks into their Muir Island base, first attempting (unsuccessfully) to possess Magneto, before leaping into Scott.
Helpless in his own body, Cyclops tries to fight the Inhuman body snatcher but is unable to break free. Left with no other options, he bides his time reliving memories as Mosaic “borrows” his skin suit and the X-Men’s jet. One of the unusual side effects of the Inhuman’s body-hopping, though, is a short-term retention of memories from anyone he’s possessed recently, including Magneto. As a result, Scott suddenly finds himself getting a crash course on Erik Lehnsherr (including his controversial reveal as Xorn!).
His trip down anti-hero memory lane includes a stop-over at the fateful meeting between Emma Frost and Erik, the same one where the master of magnetism called her out on Cyclops, questioning why the longtime X-Man would risk his reputation on such a controversial move. Standing above Scott’s corpse, she tells Magneto that his reputation is irrelevant, seeing as he died of M-pox after their arrival on Muir Island. The trouble with her logic is that young Cyclops is still very much alive and will suffer the consequences of his elder’s actions.
“The Truth Will Set You Free”
The reality behind Cyclops’ misdeeds (or lack thereof) brings with it a mix of emotions. One one hand, the burden is now lifted; neither Summers had absolutely nothing to do with the destruction of the Terrigen cloud. Relief quickly turns into sorrow, frustration, and then rage, though, after Scott realizes that Emma never made an effort to be honest with him. Unfortunately, for Cyclops, another side-effect of the body-napping means he’s trapped within his own consciousness for another 12 hours. While he awaits release, though, Scott makes a promise to Ms. Frost: “the truth – and a concussive blast – are coming to set you free.”
Halfway through the Inhumans vs. X-Men event, the war seems to be nearing a turning point. Despite early, decisive victories, the X-Men are quickly running out of time to stop the Terrigen mist, and the Inhumans are none-too-pleased about everything – and readying their counterattack. There’s also dissension within the ranks, as several key players, including Storm and both Beasts, have already expressed their overall disdain for the war. Only a handful of X-Men know the truth behind Emma’s deception. Once word gets out, the very tentative united mutant front may rapidly crumble.
Facing extinction isn’t easy, though, and the fight for survival may take far-more than a big white lie to deflate it. The next month or so should bring the battle to its inevitable climax, with IvX #4 and #5 slated to arrive soon. The X-Men may have the upper hand for now, but if Karnak can escape The World and the Inhuman leaders can escape Limbo, the tides could rapidly turn on mutantkind.
All-New X-Men #18 is currently available.