Two sides of the same great coin.
When it comes to character population, there is no other franchise out there that is as densely populated as the X-Men. At least not with as many characters people care about. While there is no short supply of characters to fill just about any gap that it created by a fallen X-Man, there just aren’t two more intriguing than Cyclops and Wolverine. Outside of what they lend to the narrative alone, they simply are more appealing and recognizable than anything Marvel has tried to substitute them with.
Wolverine Replaced By Derivatives After Death
Literally years after their deaths (Wolverine in 2014 and Cyclops two years later in 2016), I still can’t really grasp the reasoning behind taking either X-Man out of the books. One can only guess that Marvel management wanted to concentrate more on Old Man Logan due to the attention the movie created. Bolstering their gall, perhaps they believed handing Wolverine’s name to X-23 would enable them to tap the woman market and make some headlines? It would have been a win-win. I mean, if it had worked, that is.
There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with either Old Man Logan or X-23 but they didn’t have the draw I believe they were hoping for. At best they were gimmicks made all the more obsolete by the sheer amount of other Wolverine derivatives being shoved down our collective throats. Atop of these two we also had; Jimmy Hudson from the Ultimate Universe, a revived Daken, some kind of tiny Wolverine in the Exiles, and a future son with Mystique named Raze Darkholme.
And that’s without bringing up his spiritual X-Man successor, Sabretooth and X-23’s many clones, including Gabby, ridiculously codenamed Honey Badger. Oh, and the alternate reality Wolverine with gold claws, that no one talks about. So, what was the point of killing him, again? For whatever reasons they had, it looked like they just wanted the original out of the way to throw stuff against the wall to see what stuck. Sadly, I’m not sure if anything did, really.
Cyclops’ Death Retconned with Emma Frost
Cyclops is a little different. He only had one doppelganger. That being his younger self that was haphazardly ripped from the past by the present-day Beast, along with the other members of the original five X-Men. At the end of the day, all they did collectively was overstay their welcome. Judging by how the adult or main Cyclops was being written, there was only one real end game for him.
After he killed Professor-X in the Avengers Vs. X-Men crossover, Cyclops began one of the most awkward heel-turns I’ve ever witnessed. Instead of showing us how ‘bad’ he had got, all Marvel did was tell us. Incessantly so, and we weren’t buying it. Subsequently, it was topped off with his death. A death so epic and infamous that it occurred, off-panel, during a time-jump following the Secret Wars event. For months, it was only vaguely mentioned and hinted at.
Characters in the books and creators outside only referenced his actions in the most frustratingly subtle of ways. For goodness sake, a creator compared him to Hitler at one point. And what was it he did? Destroyed one of the Terrigen Mist clouds that were actively killing mutants, and supposedly leaving others sterile. Since rumors began of Disney buying 21st Century Fox and reacquiring the X-Men movie rights, Marvel has quietly walked that last part back.
To make matters even more head-scratching, as revealed in the Death of X mini-series, it wasn’t even Cyclops that did what he was accused of. Cyclops died hours or perhaps days earlier from Terrigen exposure. In reality, Emma Frost used her telepathic powers to project his image all along. How she was able to do that to so many people at the same time, including several very powerful telepaths, is beyond me. It made a senseless death even more senseless. The writers didn’t even bother to follow-up on the psychological effects it should have had on Frost. It was like Marvel just rather we’d forget two-years of story. And you know what? I’m game. Never happened.
The Difference Between Cyclops and Wolverine
In terms of a dichotomy, on the outside, these two couldn’t have been more dissimilar. Cyclops, since his inception had been written as a straight-laced, by the book, good little soldier. I mean, if you look past his issues of rampant infidelity. It’s not a knock against him. Quite the opposite, in fact. Scott’s faults, his wandering eye and inability to make long-term commitments to the women are what make him real. He’s a wonderfully flawed character with depth and imperfections. In the world of perfect little can-do winners, Marvel has transformed characters like Slim are few and far between.
Wolverine, on the other hand, was shopped as a wild-man. A true child of the wilderness with a devil-may-care attitude towards most things, outside of Jean. For someone that carried a torch for a single woman seemingly since their first encounter, unlike Cyclops, he wasn’t shy about getting out there. He had a long list of ‘friends’ but kept only one woman on his heart. Cyclops, contrarily, never seemed to lock onto anyone, not truly. First, there was Jean, then he married Madelyn, went back to Jean, had something going on with Psylocke, married Jean, and then had an affair with Emma, who he later tried to choke the life out of.
Cyclops may have acted the part of a soldier, but Wolverine was one. Several times throughout his long life, in fact. It’s almost as if they were mimicking each other’s inner-self, on the outside. I’m not even sure if that made sense… Towards the ends of their lives, from a philosophical standpoint at least, they swapped positions. Cyclops became the loose canon revolutionary willing to train children to become warriors and Wolverine opened a boarding school (in the name of Cyclops’ dead wife, no less) so children wouldn’t have to.
Why the Return of Cyclops and Wolverine is Important
Cyclops and Wolverine are hands down the two most important men in X-Men lore this side of Xavier (also dead) and Magneto. There are plenty of capable women leaders to choose from, always have been, and with the likes of Storm, Jean, Kitty, Rogue, and Psylocke around, there always will be. But we’re getting to the point where there is little to no male leadership at all within the ranks of the X-Men. Cable has just recently joined the ranks among the dearly departed and currently, Havok is going through a redemption arc that began with him realizing that no one cares what he thinks. I’ll admit that last part was pretty funny.
Currently, all the men with any real authority are either dead, rediscovering themselves or just plain MIA. Not saying, they are going to come back here and make everything gravy. I am saying half of the calamities that have occurred probably would have been averted or at least turned out much differently. After their deaths, the X-Men were still recovering from the schism caused when these two simply had a difference in opinion. They split the X-Men in half and put 3000 miles between the two camps. If that doesn’t demonstrate the degree of influence they had over the team, don’t know what will.
Cyclops and Wolverine are slated to return in time for Uncanny X-Men #12 next year!