In the Marvel Universe, mutants have always had a tough time trying to survive. The X-Men act as the guardians of their kind, with several team members becoming well-known throughout the community. A lot of members on the team have gone through changes since their original appearance. Perhaps the character who has changed the most is team leader, Cyclops. Scott Summers started out as a boy who doubted his decisions and turned into a ruthless tactician who made the hard choices for his people. I’ve seen a lot of fans of the character dislike his change in personality. But I’d argue that he became the person he was meant to be and I’ll explain why.
Scott was one of the original five X-Men, attending Professor X’s school as a teenager. From a young age he had trouble controlling his powers and wore ruby quartz glasses to contain his eye beams. He proved to be a capable leader and was the exemplar of Charles Xavier’s dream. He fought harder than anyone to bring peace between mutants and humans, defying Magneto and leading the X-Men for years.
Cyclops’ love for Jean Grey is one of his most enduring traits. They married each other, but this was complicated by Xavier and Magneto’s transformation into the monstrous Onslaught. The villain is eventually defeated and Jean and Scott became co-headmasters of the school. Further problems occur when Apocalypse planned to steal the power of twelve mutants and the body of Nate Grey, Scott and Jean’s son from an alternate reality. To save Nate, Cyclops willingly merged with Apocalypse. Eventually, Scott was separated from Apocalypse, but he was never the same after.
Over the next few years, Cyclops displayed a harder, militant approach to dealing with threats against mutants. He secretly tasked Wolverine with leading X-Force, a kill squad designed to neutralise foes. X-23 was a part of the team and it could be argued Cyclops used her as a tool to carry out his agenda. During another mission, Cyclops sent his son Cable and X-Force into the future to stop a Nimrod production line, knowing that there was a good chance they wouldn’t return. Although the team were successful, Cable died.
Scott’s change in tactics became reminiscent of Magneto. He was willing to do whatever it took to keep mutants safe, but he never went as far as to kill innocent humans. In my opinion, Cyclops saw that he needed to make the hard decisions to protect mutants because that’s what leaders do. He retained his compassion for people, but he hardened himself to be able to make a real difference.
During the Avengers Vs X-Men arc, Cyclops became a host for The Phoenix and eventually killed Professor Xavier. To me, this was terrible writing and a disservice to both characters. No matter how aggressive Cyclops became in his approach, he’d never lose sight of his father figure’s dream.
Most recently, Cyclops was killed during the M-Pox outbreak that originated from the Inhumans. A younger, time-displaced version has taken his place in mainstream comics and I feel they are trying to reboot the character.
Cyclops’ evolution is believable because idealism can’t always be depended on for survival. He matured and developed his own philosophy on the best way to fight for mutant rights. I would argue he walked the line between Xavier’s compassion and Magneto’s pragmatism.