This is one of those rare weeks where this columnist got so few comic books that an opportunity to look at a comic from the previous week arose. As it turns out, aforementioned comic turned out to be the best out of a very small heap. Such a thing happened back in February with "Ms. Marvel". So, which comic benefits from a rare second glance?
Book of the week (from last week): Cyclops #1
Is it possible to enjoy the spin off to a series one isn't reading and has no intention to? That is a question which arises with this latest case of a member of the X-Men getting his own shot at an ongoing series. The most famous (and successful) is Wolverine, but X-Men such as Gambit, Nightcrawler, and Rogue have all had stabs at their own series, with Storm being set up for one in the very near future. This is Cyclops' chance at the spotlight, although this isn't the Cyclops that most readers may be aware of. As the opening page tries to address very quickly, this is a younger version of Cyclops who has traveled through time from 1960's continuity (albeit with heavy alterations) to current times alongside the rest of the "founding five" to prevent a disaster. It turns out that they're appalled at the current state of the X-Men and now their very existence threatens to undo the entire time/space continuum. All of this has been chronicled for a few years by writer Brian M. Bendis in "All-New X-Men", "Uncanny X-Men", and "Guardians of the Galaxy", who last year ran the crossover events "Age of Ultron" and "Battle of the Atom" furthering these memes.
Thus, refugee DC Comics writer Greg Rucka has a very interesting challenge on his hands. He has the task of writing a spin-off resulting from a status quo (which, at best, is horribly confusing and complicated to even most well read comic book readers) without having his own title merely be a pawn of its' parent title ("All-New X-Men"). To this end he has wisely focused on his central character, the sixteen year old Scott Summers from the past, rather than the complicated core title he's apart from. The initial page exposition dump is about as fast paced and blunt as emptying a garbage bin, but once it is out of the way the real meat of this opening chapter can begin. After a previous adventure which is alluded to but not discussed in detail (essentially, a crossover between "All-New X-Men" and "Guardians of the Galaxy"), this awkward wayward version of Cyclops has been reunited with the father he thought had died in a plane crash when he was a child - Christopher Summers, best known as Corsair, leader of a band of space pirates known as the "Starjammers". Corsair himself was killed off during the Ed Brubaker run of "Uncanny X-Men" some seven years ago, but has been resurrected in the classic Brian Bendis manner - suddenly and without explanation or reaction.
Fortunately, Rucka is running wild with the opportunities provided him by the absurd premises before him by playing with the theme of redemption. The young Cyclops has seen what he'll become in his "future", and is appalled. His budding love for Jean Grey has also become complicated upon learning about her trauma with the Phoenix as well as the lengths taken to avenge or defend her. Corsair, meanwhile, lost out on being able to raise his son due to spending years as a slave of the Shi'ar empire and then even longer running a motley crew of space rebels. Although he eventually met and had some adventures with his adult sons, they were never very close before he was ironically murdered by a third son Corsair didn't know existed (Vulcan). Now, a very bizarre series of time travel shenanigans has given both a single chance in existence to make amends for lost time, and it seems neither are eager to waste it.
The art is provided by Russell Dauterman with Chris Sotomayor on colors, and Rucka's space set script gives both a chance to shine. Not only are readers introduced to Scott and Corsair, but to the key members of Corsair's space pirate gang. The feline Hepzipah perhaps benefits the most from this, acting as a fun sort of "step-mother" to Scott while showcasing how much she enjoys both adventure and sex with Corsair. However, the worrisome ship doctor Sikorsky and the massive (yet eloquent) Ch'od also get a few pages to shine. A random battle against the vicious Badoon provides a quick excuse for action as well as a perfectly acceptable target for pirates to fight while still seeming heroic (as the Badoon have long been war-like monsters). The finale decides to separate the pair from the rest of the Starjammers to allow the time crossed "father and son" bonding attempt to continue with less distractions.
Put aside all of the crossovers and piles of baggage from the continuity of previous and current side series, and this is a perfectly well put together opening issue. It establishes its' central character as well as the rest of the cast as well as the theme and general push of the rest of the run to follow. The artwork is as bright and energetic as one would expect of a space opera, and the designs for many of the space suits (including Cyclops') are quite good. The angle of a father and son trying to take advantage of a fluke to make up for past sins against each other is a strong one, as well as the overall premise of redemption. Through the second chance of time travel, Cyclops gets to take inspiration from a father he never knew, while Corsair gets a chance to actually be a father to the eldest son he often felt he failed the most.
Best known for DC Comics works such as "Gotham Central" and "Wonder Woman" as well as original works such as "Queen & Country" and "Lazarus", Rucka has found a new home at Marvel Comics with a brief run on "Punisher" in the recent past. This is perhaps his biggest step towards a higher tier of Marvel Comics productions, and here he showcases an ability to delve past complications to get to simple human interactions amid time travel and space details. Despite usually being known for darker fare, this issue offers more straightforward space adventure and promises more of the same next month. With "Guardians of the Galaxy" hitting theaters in August, Marvel are playing up the "space" angle to the hilt in as many comics as they can. The X-Men have long had space operas as a part of their saga, but this spin-off takes it beyond a simple fad into an attempt at something both simple, and profound. On the whole, it is possible to enjoy the spin off to comics one doesn't read so long as they're as solid as this.
Honorable mention (that actually was from this week):
Quantum And Woody #10: A more accurate title for this arc may as well be "Quantum versus Woody", as writer James Asmus has pit the two volatile brothers (by adoption) on a collision course against each other. As is typical of most "buddy" series, the two titular "buddies" have split up and gone their separate ways. Unfortunately, Eric/Quantum has been tasked with guarding the Smithsonian Museum just as Woody has teamed up with an old flame and her crew of robbers to sack it. The end result is a hilarious look at how both brothers cope from their separation as well as an eclectic battle within the museum between Eric, the robbers, and their voodoo prize. Asmus earns bonus points for having this issue share some continuity with another Valiant Entertainment comic, "Shadowman", without distracting from his main plot. Kano continues to prove more adept at the comical tone of the series than Ming Doyle did, as his panel and colors mix perfectly with Asmus' laugh-out-loud script. The conclusion to this spectacle may be easy to predict, but the ride up to it continues to offer some of the biggest and best laughs in superhero comics.