So far Extermination has not lived up to the hype of being the event that brings the X-Men franchise back to prominence. There has been a lot lacking with a villain in Ahab that has yet to come across as a big bad that could end the X-Men. A lot of that has to do with his motivation and endgame not being clearly defined. That has affected the entire event of Extermination as the X-Men as a team have not come across as the best superhero team with how they’ve handled things. Now with only two issues left is there enough time for Ed Brisson to turn things around? Let’s find out with Extermination #4.
Writer: Ed Brisson
Artist: Pepe Larraz and Ario Anindito
Inker: Dexter Vines
Colorist: Erick Arciniega
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Above the Atlantic Ocean inside Ahab’s airship Ahab orders his hounds to dive into the X-Men’s Searebro base and get ready to kill Cyclops.
Over at the X-Men Mansion Cannonball arrives with a knocked out Shatterstar in his arms and is surprised to find the mansion in disrepair. Cannonball catches up on how Ahab turned Old Man Logan and Rachel Grey into Hounds during the attack.
Kitty Pryde tells Iceman and Angel to help Cannonball get Shatterstar to the medical facility where Dr. Reyes is. After that she wants them ready to meet her and Storm in the hanger to go after Ahab.
At Cable’s safehouse X-Force has young Cable pinned down. As the fight intensifies Young Jean Grey stops the fighting with her psychic powers. She demands to know why Cable killed his older version.
Young Cable reveals that his older self lost sight of his mission to squash anomalies, like the time displaced original X-Men, before things before things got out of hand. Domino calls young Cable out on his bullshit. Young Cable says he is telling the truth and drops his telepathic blockers to show Young Jean the truth.
Looking inside Cable’s mind Young Jean finds out about the different futures that are caused by every decision the X-Men make. This includes the apocalyptic future if the time displaced X-Men stayed in the present where when one of the original five dies everything is thrown into further disarray.
As Young Jean stands in shock over what she learned Cable reveals that he has been working on putting the time displaced X-Men back to their original forms. That includes taking Young Angel’s cosmic energy wings and replacing them with Mimic’s wings. Mimic says that while he would’ve like to have known about Cable’s plan ahead of time he is actually happy to help.
Inside Searebro the present Jean Grey watches over Young Cyclops and promises to protect him. Ahab and the Hounds suddenly attack the base. Ahab orders his Hounds, which include Old Man Logan, Nightcrawler and Rachel, to find Young Cyclops. Jean tells her X-Men to watch her back while she tries to break Old Man Logan’s out of his current status.
As the two sides fight Maxime and Manon turn Gabby into a Hound, who then attacks X-23. This causes the remaining X-Men to retreat while also trying to protect themselves against Ahab and his Hounds.
At that same time Kitty’s X-Men quickly fly to Searebro to back-up Jean’s X-Men.
At the Searebro medical bay Nightcrawler finds Young Cyclops but is quickly stopped by Young Cable before he can teleport away.
Young Cable, X-Force and the time displaced X-Men then show up. The present Jean quickly figures out what is going on after reading her younger versions mind. Young Cyclops wants to go after Ahab for what he did to Bloodstorm but Mimic and Young Iceman tell him to chill.
An explosion suddenly knocks everyone back. Ahab shows up and is attacked by Young Cyclops. Ahab makes quick work of Young Cyclops by throwing his spear at him.
The spear sends Cyclops to a wall and leaves him hanging there bleeding out much to the X-Men’s horror. Ahab then declares the battle over. End of issue.
The Good: It took four issues but Extermination finally hit its stride. It couldn’t have come at a better time as Extermination #4 is the penultimate issue in the latest X-Men event. While not a perfect issue Ed Brisson checks off all the boxes to make the final chapter of Extermination deliver a strong ending.
What worked in particularly well was the overall pacing of Extermination #4. A major problem with the first three issues was that there was a lot of stalling with it not being clear what the endgame of Extermination is. Brisson fixes that by establishing what is at stake from what Young Cable reveals, the X-Men’s race to save Young Cyclops and Ahab not holding back in his attack at Searebro. All of these scenes moved at a steady pace as Brisson did not spend too much time on just one part of the issue. This gave a sense of purpose to the majority of what happened in Extermination #4.
The pacing of Extermination #4 was exactly what Ahab and his Hounds needed to be perceived as a major threat. Surveying the damage at the Xavier Mansion and how Ahab launched an attack on Searebro put over how this is a guy not to mess with. Having several X-Men on his side on top of his army of Hounds made him have an aura of danger anytime he appeared on screen.
Helping put over Ahab as a threat was Young Cable’s story. Through what Young Cable reveals to Young Jean Grey and the X-Force we finally learned that the time displaced X-Men’s presence was a danger to the entire X-Men continuity. That is something that has not been established since it has been long since thought that the time displaced X-Men are now from an alternate universe. Putting them back into a place where every little change the time displaced X-Men go through, like Angel’s cosmic energy wings, affects the present once they return to their time period added actual stakes to what is going.
Having that major concern for the safety of the time displaced X-Men was another major element that was missing from this event. Now that Brisson was able to establish that fact through Young Cable there is genuine concern Ahab’s hunt for the time displaced X-Men. That concern for their safety made Ahab a much bigger threat as he only had to kill one of the original X-Men. This elevated threat level made the ending have greater impact.
These revelations properly cleared up why Young Cable is now in the present and killed his older self. While the explanation had some holes the overall presentation made sense. It at least gives us an idea of what Young Cable’s motivations are and why he has done what he has done. His approach of just doing things without previously going into detail stays in line with what we expect from Cable. And even though it hurt his standing with the X-Men he did show he got results by putting the dominos in place to make the original X-Men’s return to the past work as well as possible.
All of Young Cable’s revelations sets up a logical way for the ending with Ahab supposedly killing Young Cyclops be explained in a way that does not affect the timeline. That all centers around the fact we don’t see a clear picture of Young Cyclops being the one that attacks or is killed by Ahab. Given that Mimic was around Young Cyclops at the time of the explosion it won’t be surprising that Mimic actually took the Young Cyclops appearance. If this is the way Brisson goes he at least set the table for an explanation for Mimic’s major role in Extermination.
With Extermination #4 Brisson did a good job giving us smaller character moments. One that stood out was the present Jean Grey’s quick scene with the unconscious Young Cyclops. Through this quick scene Brisson got over how Jean was still affected by her Cyclops’ death. Giving her that extra motivation made how she was able to hold all the Hounds back make have greater meaning than it just being mindless action.
These smaller moments extended to the X-Force as well. Brisson does a good job showing how much the iconic version of Cable meant to the X-Force, Domino in particular. Even though they were fighting a younger version of Cable you were rooting for X-Force to get their revenge on their former leader’s killer. With how Young Jean resolved things Brisson still left the door open to explore how Young Cable will interact with X-Force and X-Men after Extermination.
The artwork for Extermination #4 was also well done. Pepe Larraz and Ario Anindito did a good job splitting up the artwork duties with Larraz handling the layouts and Anindito working on the penciling. Splitting up the work in this way helped keep a consistent look to Extermination #4. That consistency made for a good looking issue that kept moving forward as the story was balanced with character work and action scenes.
The Bad: The one thing that Extermination #4 does not improve on is balancing all of the X-Men’s roles in the story. There is still a big divide with how the X-Men worked. They never seemed prepared because there was a lack of communication between the Blue, Red and X-Force squads. Given all that is going on with Ahab’s attacks it should not be hard to expect that Kitty Pryde, Jean Grey and Domino would maintain some sort of communication.
What made this a more obvious plot hole was the fact that Brisson had Kitty act like they had a lot of time after Ahab’s attack. The lack of urgency in Kitty’s dialogue hurt her X-Men’s overall role in the story. It put into question how effective she is as a leader since she did not even bother to warn Jean that Ahab was coming after Young Cyclops. Even if it was one short panel it would’ve helped make the X-Men look more like a team than just a bunch of individual working under the same name.
Overall: Extermination #4 was exactly the penultimate issue that this X-Men event needed. Ed Brisson fixes all the problems that this event previously faced. The majority of the characters involved, including the main antagonist Ahab, were elevated by what happened in Extermination. Now with how this issue ended the stage is set for Brisson to deliver a satisfying conclusion to the X-Men’s Extermination event.