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X-MEN: THE SEARCH FOR CYCLOPS

The hunt is on for their missing member, but will the X-Men like what they find?

By Matthew F. Saunders     October 11, 2000

Evil has many faces. But what if one day you woke up and discovered that one of them was your own? To make matters worse, what if it was one you didn't even recognize? Sound confusing? Then welcome to Cyclops' world. Struck with amnesia and merged with one of the X-Men's greatest foes, Apocalypse, that's the dilemma facing him in X-Men: The Search for Cyclops, the new four-issue mini-series by writer Joe Harris and artist Tom Raney that'll resolve the fate of the X-Men's founding member.

For months, Cyclops has been thought dead by his teammates following the cataclysmic events of the 'The Twelve' storyline, in which Marvel's mutants seemingly defeated Apocalypse once and for all. But as the new series opens, they'll learn what fans already know: that Cyclops is alivebut most certainly not well. When Cyclops sacrificed himself to defeat the evil mutant, he paid a price much higher then death. He paid with his soul. As a result, the lost and confused Cyclops must struggle not only for supremacy of his newly amalgamated body, but to preserve his very essence and the purity that drives his devotion to the X-Men.

'It's a series about Cyclops searching for Cyclops, as much as anything else,' says Harris. 'We're going to present a story about the character who's considered the heart and soul of this team, sort of a gritty story we haven't seen before. We've got a very noble character, who has at times been viewed as one of the more pure X-Men. And we've had him tainted with the ultimate evil. That represents a problem, not only for the X-Men but also for Scott Summers, who's alive out there somewhere, searching for himself. And he's got to find a way to either rid himself of this evil he's been infected with, or give into it, depending on which side wins.'

Enemy Me

As the story opens, Cyclops is in control of the amalgamated body, but that control in tenuous at best. Apocalypse is bubbling just below the surface, waiting to dominate once more as he briefly did when they first merged. 'The body isn't writhing on the floor as two different people manifest physically in there,' explains Harris. 'A lot of it's going on behind the scenes. I liken it to if an Alien queen [from Aliens] had laid eggs in his body. He's doubled over and clutching his belly to keep that thing from bursting forth. That's kind of the edge Cyclops is riding through this series.'

To make matters worse, the amnesiac Cyclops must endure flashes of Apocalypse's memories and past, including many of the horrors Apocalypse both witnessed and instigated over his centuries-long existence. 'Cyclops is trying to figure out who he is, while denying the most dominate memories he has, which are Apocalypse's,' says Harris. 'That's going to be torturing Cyclops as he sleeps, or rather as he struggles to figure out who he is.'

Amidst his struggles come Phoenix and Cable, who begin seeking Cyclops when they get word he may not be dead after all. 'They're made aware of [other] people out there looking for Cyclops and that's what sort of directs them on the active search,' says Harris. 'They learn that they're not the only people out there that would be interested if in fact he were alive.'

Harris is keeping the identity of these 'others' a secret for now, but says there are two very clear-cut agendas among his pursuers. 'There are people who want Apocalypse back, who are his followers,' reveals Harris, 'whom he is valuable to and who would follow him the way they have been for so long. And you've got the X-Men searching for Cyclops. At heart, that's really what it's all abouttwo sides that want to retrieve people. But once they get there, things aren't going to be what they're expecting and that's where the complications arise.'

For Phoenix and Cable, his wife and son respectively, those complications hit very close to home. Finding Cyclops before his other pursuers do is almost secondary to the difficult decisions they may face once they do. Foremost on their minds is the question of whator more appropriately, whothey'll find. Will he still be the same man he used to be? Or will Apocalypse's evil have tainted his soul beyond repair? And, if it comes down to it, will they be able to put aside their personal feelings and take drastic action against the man they both hold dear?

'Well, that's sort of the drama,' answers Harris. 'Over the course of the story, Phoenix and Cable are both going to have their own doubts, their own fears. They both want to save Scott if they can, and to some degree they're wondering if they can do what they have to do if in fact he can't be saved. And even if they can get there in time, will they be too late anyway? That really is at the core of the story.'

Difficult Choices

Beyond his personal feelings for Cyclops, Cable's situation is further complicated by the fact that Cyclops made the sort of sacrifice for which he's planned and trained his entire life. Possessing almost a martyr complex, Cable always believed it was his destiny to die in battle against Apocalypse. He never thought someone else, let alone his father, would be called upon to make that sacrifice in his stead.

'It's a very complex reaction,' says Harris. 'His mission never got completed, and I think Cable's still willing to sacrifice himself. He's not resentful of whoever completed it for him, but there's a sense of unfinished business on Cable's part that he really won't get to finish unless he kills his father. But can he kill him if he has to? [Luke] Skywalker couldn't do it [in Return of the Jedi]. To me, that's torturous. I'm really trying to get inside these characters' heads and make you believe this character is going through hell every step of the way.'

Even if Cable can't pull the trigger himself, there are those around him who may be more than willing to do it for him. 'We'll be introducing at least one other character from Cable's mythology that might have his own take on the situation if Cable isn't up to the job,' says Harris. 'There are lots of people searching for Cyclops/Apocalypse and neither he nor the readers are really going to know who they're all working for until it all really matters in the series' climax.'

As a result of these difficult choices, Phoenix and Cable's relationshipwhich has been growing closer in the pages of Uncanny X-Men since Cable joined the team following Cyclops' sacrificecould be put at risk. Instead of bringing them even closer together, it could very well tear them apart.

'Going into this, they're both going to try and have as much solidarity between them as they can,' says Harris, 'but there are going to be doubts on both their sides about the other one. Is this person capable of doing what has to be done? Or what's this person going to put firsttheir mission, love or family? There are a lot of very organic conflicts here. Is this gonna draw them closer together or rip them farther apart? The potential's there to go either way. I don't think anyone's gonna know until the last page of issue #4.'

Regardless of Cable's final decision, the inner conflict that informs it speaks to the larger issues he faces as a reluctant X-Man. His choice will play into those ongoing doubts and have lasting effects on his role in the team. 'Cable joined the X-Men to honor Scott,' says editor Mark Powers, 'but does he fit in? Does he agree with the way they do things? Remember, this is the guy who constantly used to say, 'I'm not an X-Man.' Scott's death has forced him to confront his own beliefs. This will also be a big element of the November story, [the 'Dream's End' crossover in the X-books], and the one that follows in the new year.'

Old Enemy, New Take

The X-Men aren't the only ones who have a personal stake in the outcome. Apocalypse, for one, needs Cyclops' body just as much as he does, his old one apparently destroyed at the end of 'The Twelve' storyline. That doesn't mean Cyclops' body is the only option, though. 'We're introducing a new character in this book that has some plans to that end,' reveals Harris. 'Whereas the X-Men certainly wouldn't want Cyclops to be the vessel for Apocalypse, there might be people out there that would jump at the chance. That's where a lot of our fireworks will come in. Apocalypse is going to do whatever he can to survive.'

However, fans looking for the same old Apocalypse will be in for a surprise. While his presence will be felt throughout the series, this won't be your typical Apocalypse story. 'When Mark and I started talking about this series, our objective was always to tell a different Apocalypse story,' says Harris. 'We didn't want to open with 'Apocalypse is the lord of some realm,' or have him sitting on a throne manipulating things.

'Rather, you're going to feel that Apocalypse is as much of a threat as he's ever been without him being on camera a lot of the time. You're going to feel what he represents, which is loss for these characters. He represents the dark things that a lot of them are capable of doing and a lot of the sides of their personality we might not often see.'

Whatever the final fallout is, Powers assures fans that they won't be seeing the same old Apocalypse for quite a while afterwards, either. 'You can expect to not see Apocalypse,' says Powers, 'at least in the way you're accustomed to, for a very long time.'

Lasting Repercussions

While the situation certainly holds many dire consequences for those around him, none more so than for Cyclops himself. He's lost. He's being hunted. He doesn't know who's a friend, who's a foe, or even if he's good or bad. And come series' end, the biggest question remaining will be what kind of life he'll haveif any.

'I don't think anyone's going to walk away from this unchanged,' says Harris. 'Scott's been possessed by a pretty extraordinary evil and it's going to be very hard to trust him entirely once this is doneassuming he makes it back alive. He's gonna have some doubts and he's gonna be frightened of himself. This is gonna open his eyes to some nasty things he never imagined he'd see within himself.'

The chance to explore these 'nasty things,' and a new side of such a long-standing character as Cyclops, was an opportunity Harris welcomed eagerly. While Cyclops doesn't exactly grab the spotlight like such X-characters as Wolverine or Gambit, he nonetheless plays an integral role on the team. Despite occasional absences over the years, it's hard to imagine the X-Men existing for too long without him. As such, the mini-series afforded Harris the opportunity to explore Cyclops in a setting wholly unique to the character.

'By separating him from the X-Men with a tragedy we needed to follow up on, that opened the door for some really cool stuff,' says Harris. 'We've cut all his lifelines and we're gonna see how he swims. I don't think Cyclops has ever been put through the sorts of situations and the emotional wringer we're gonna put him through. I'd like to think we're lighting a new side of this character.'

Whether Cyclops sinks or swims, or even returns to the team, remains to be seen. All hints aside, Harris and Powers aren't saying for sure. But, if nothing else, Harris has one wish for the mini-series and character. 'There are ramifications in this series that will flavor Cyclops and his relationships for the foreseeable future,' says Harris. 'I guess what I'm hoping for after it's over is for people to think, 'Dang, that was a great Cyclops story!''

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