The X-Men stand amidst a new world, where they are no longer powerless to fight against a world that hates and fears them. What this has done on a more granular level is completely change certain characters’ internal and external dynamics. The prime example of this fundamental alteration is the man whose entire purpose in life was to lead the X-Men: Cyclops. Fans and detractors of Cyclops would all tend agree that the key trait that defines Scott Summers is his insistence on putting the entire world of mutantkind on his shoulders, to the point that it negatively affects his life and the people he loves. What the events of House of X have done — what Jonathan Hickman has done — is put Cyclops in a position where he is not, and will not be, solely responsible to lead mutantkind. For what may be the first time in his entire life since he fell out of that plane, Scott Summers is at peace — something that defines the tone and feeling of X-Men #2.
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The Summers family was the focus of a large portion of the oversized X-Men #1, but they’ve really been a large focus of X-Men continuity forever. While the continued focus on this family in #2 could easily feel stale or tired, Hickman uses this new and improved Scott Summers to develop a dynamic that hasn’t been explored nearly as much: Cyclops as a father of two. Scott Summers has never been a great father, between abandoning his wife and child, endangering his child with X-Factor, and eventually having to send his child to the future because of that endangerment. And this was all while Nathan was still a baby! Despite this, Scott has clearly tried to be a better father, and now in X-Men #2 he has the opportunity to bond with his two children: Prestige and Cable.
There’s something to be said about domestic life in the X-Men, as family bonding time could also be described as “beating up some monsters” on a mysterious island. While the issue treats the plot with the gravity and sincerity that it merits, Hickman makes sure to fill it with interactions and banter between the three Summers leading the issue. There isn’t much depth to this back and forth, but it’s enjoyable to read and portrays the new worldview of Cyclops incredibly well. After his heart-to-heart with his father last issue, Scott’s attitude in this issue cements his state of mind as something completely and totally new, and it’s a joy to read. Prestige and Cable don’t get very much actual character work here, but their banter is very reminiscent of teenage siblings arguing with each other, driving home this picture of domestic life. Cowles’ lowercase lettering sells the calmer demeanor of the characters in this issue, but the downside to this more subdued character interaction is that Leinil Francis Yu’s art doesn’t fit very well as characters often appear expressionless and occasionally screaming or angry but without much other emotion.
The first splash page of Arakko is breathtaking as Yu, alongside Gerry Alanguilan inking and Sunny Gho on colors, designs an island as mysterious and foreboding as Krakoa was back in its first appearance in Giant-Size X-Men #1. The art team shines brightest when drawing the landscape and denizens of Arakko, as the monsters look properly alien and horrific and the action scenes are bombastic and dynamic. The designs for Arakko’s monsters and the resident Summoner among them are striking and memorable, and paint a stark contrast between Krakoa’s beauty and Arakko’s roughness.
The grander plot of the issue moves threads from House of X and Powers of X further than expected, both introducing the island of Arakko and resolving its conflict with Krakoa. There’s a lot of building and setup within this story, as Hickman connects Arakko to other, already existing X-Men and related concepts, and expands Krakoa both figuratively and literally. The actual conflict is mostly a result of the classic trope of forgetting telepaths alongside Hickman’s take on Cable as a child with no common sense, but it’s enjoyable enough. Ultimately, though, the issue’s meat is more in its implications and dangling threads than its actual content.
X-Men #2 serves to further illustrate the new status quo as well as push it forward in a meaningful way, but its strongest aspect is its ability to convey that the X-Men are home. Even on a mysterious island in a setup that distinctly calls back to the legendary Giant-Size X-Men #1, the X-Men feel more familiar and at peace than ever before. Hickman and Yu’s new direction for the X-Men hasn’t just changed the way the X-Men interact with the external (no, not that External) world, but also with each other. Where House of X and Powers of X expanded the world of mutantkind, X-Men is dedicated to deepening their relationships.
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