Marvels Snapshot has been a hugely successful one-shot series. Curated by Kurt Busiek, each story tells a tale that’s set in a specific time and place, focusing on characters not necessarily because they are heroes, but because they are people. In the same vein as Busiek and Alex Ross’ Marvels, this series shows us a snapshot of how Marvel superheroes are living in a world outside our window.
This week, Jay Edidin and artist Tom Reilly explore Cyclops aka Scott Summers’ life when he lived in an orphanage and had yet to come into his powers. It’s an often mentioned, but never quite focused on time in the character’s life, giving this issue even more purpose. The story here is a coming-of-age tale as we see how he formed into the master tactician we all know and love on the X-Men.
This book leans into captions quite a bit, putting us inside Scott Summers’ head every second that takes place in the narrative. Opening on how he lost his family, we’re quickly whisked out of the nightmare memories and into his time at the State Home for Foundlings. It’s here we come to realize this is a Cyclops who can’t use his eye beams yet and is even bullied. He’s all of us, so to speak, as he’s not yet found his place or learned to fight back against bullies in a smart sort of way. His courage is there, but he’s hasn’t learned who he is yet.
The art by Reilly, with colors by Chris O’Halloran, have an indie feel that’s measured, not too splashy, and much more focused on character. There are of course dramatic action scenes, but they are done in a way to juxtapose Scott Summers’ more normalized life against the epic nature of heroes. This is likely why most of the scenes are cast in cool blues to create a monotone feel. You see the juxtaposition quite well at one point as the cool blues of Cyclops’ life is paired with a colorful Fantastic Four moment cutting from panel to panel in a 9-panel grid page. The genius use of color is even more prevalent when Cyclops begins to wear his famous ruby red glasses, which add a bit of color. Again, there’s a very subtle and smart storytelling mechanic going on here to help show a boy becoming a hero.
As the story progresses, we get to see who Scott is via his adoration of superheroes. It’s an interesting take, since like most of us, if you saw the Fantastic Four on TV you’d probably become a super fan too. This inspired the character and this is all before he gained powers. Edidin smartly approaches the character in a way that reminds us the best heroes aren’t doing heroic things because of their powers, but because of who they are. This is a good start if you’re looking for a Cyclops origin story — not in how he became an X-Man, but how he became a hero and master strategist.
This is also tethered well to the history of the Marvel universe. It’s a reminder the X-Men live amongst superheroes like Iron Man and can be influenced by them. It’s not a bubble, but a cohesive, interconnected world.
X-Men fans will enjoy hints at the history we all know and love, and will likely bring more to the book than what is on the page. I won’t spoil a thing, but if you know who might be running the orphanage, you can gather why it is run the way it is in the book.
Once again, Marvels Snapshot continues to be a great read for superhero fans who want their tales steeped in a relatable reality. Cyclops has typically been a hero that’s hard to relate to because of his unending dedication to the team and his selflessness. In this issue, Edidin, Reilly, and O’Halloran have shown us how an ordinary boy can dedicate his life to heroism — it just takes the right inspiration and call to action to do so. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is!