Extermination #5 marks the end of not just a five issue miniseries, but also a massive story line that has been going on for over six years.
Back in 2012, Brian Michael Bendis took the reigns of the X-Men comic franchise, writing two flagship titles for Marvel. Uncanny X-Men, which focused on a group of new mutants under the tutelage of Cyclops, Emma Frost and Magneto, felt like very standard X-Men fair and was consistently engaging (who doesn't love Goldballs?). The other book, All-New X-Men was a bit more high concept, focusing on teenage versions of the original five X-Men (Marvel Girl, Cyclops, Beast, Angel and Iceman for those of you who are keeping score) who were brought to present day as teenagers.
Now, this setup could have easily been exploited for a lot of sitcom moments between older and younger versions of the same character, ad nauseam (and a lot of times, that low-hanging fruit was plucked with joy), but at its best, All-New X-Men was a brilliant meditation on coming face to face with the fractured lives these characters might one day live. Seeing the damage done by years of poor choices, sacrifices, and crippling repression starring back at the teenage version of yourself would be jarring for anyone. These young mutants would continue their journey in the pages of X-Men: Blue for a handful of years under the guiding hand of Magento hypeman Cullen Bunn. But now, the story of the time-displaced team has come to an end in the pages of Extermination #5, but was it a fulfilling final bow for readers who have been on this ride for all these years?
To avoid spoilers, we won't go into great detail regarding how this massive time loop is closed (you can read about the, here), but we will say things felt a bit rushed. After six years of stories, the bulk of Extermination has felt like a network deciding to cancel a television show at the end of its current season, the showrunners deciding to swing for the fences and condense what would be a season's worth of content into a handful of episodes. And perhaps there is some truth to that analogy behind the scenes. With so many X-Men coming back from the dead or being shuffled about, the mutant landscape has gotten pretty damn crowded in recent months. Getting rid of duplicate characters makes sense, logistically. If this final arc was simply a way to sweep things aside to make room on the shelf, then writer Ed Brisson and artist Pepe Larraz handled things pretty well.
While Extermination #5 was packed to the gills with exposition, especially from the villain Ahab, how things played out worked well on the page within the context of the broader story (for the most part). Brisson does a solid job of cleaning house in a short period of time. However, a lot of if feels like a teenager just stuffing dirty laundry under their bed so mom will get off their case about family coming over for the holidays. It gets the job done, but at the cost of finesse, and there may be problems as a result somewhere down the line.
Despite the speedy pacing, this issue does take time for some wonderfully warm moments to take center stage. One in particular between the older and younger version of Bobby Drake really stood out. After all, the relationship these two had with each other carried a lot of emotional weight and often felt like the heart of the greater story. Brisson handled their final(?) encounter with grace and it certainly put a smile on my face.
Pepe Larraz delivered some of the best action sequences of the miniseries in Extinction #5. The final showdown between Kid Cable and Ahab was simply awesome, hearkening back to the high octane action sequences from X-Men comics of yesteryear. Oddly enough, it made this final issue an interesting hodgepodge of X-Men tropes both old and new, which, now that I think of it, is actually quite apropos.
While this might not have been the big, cathartic ending some of us were hoping for, Extinction ties up a lot of loose ends while leaving one massive thread still dangling in the wind like busted kite string. It turns out the story of the time displaced original five X-Men might have come to a close, but the next chapter in comics' greatest superhero soap opera (shout out to Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men for that one) is just beginning.