WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Extermination #4, by Ed Brisson, Pepe Larraz, Ario Anindito, Dexter Vines, Erick Arciniega and VC’s Joe Sabino, out now.
Extermination is the X-Men event that draws to a close the time-hopping saga of the original X-Men that first started in 2012. The young versions of Jean Grey, Cyclops, Iceman, Angel and Beast were plucked from their own time by the older Hank McCoy as a way of showing Scott Summers just how far he'd fallen, and since then, the young mutants become a key part of the X-Men Universe. Now, though, it’s time for the team to return to where they’ve come from, and in this week’s Extermination #4, we find out exactly why it’s so important that they do so.
As longtime readers know, this isn’t the first time that the Original X-Men have decided to return home. From the very first moment they were dragged into their own future, it’s been fairly unanimously agreed upon that them being here was a bad idea. If anyone knows the damage time travel can have on events of past, present and future, it’s the X-Men, who’ve had more than their fair share of experiences with dark, alternate futures. Despite the untold damage they’re potentially causing, however, something has prevented them from returning to their own time. Now, in Extermination, a young version of Cable has returned from the future to ensure that nothing stops them from finally returning home.
Up until now, it’s been unclear just what young Cable’s motivations are; after all, the first act that the teenage version of Nathan Summers committed was to kill his older self. Next, he seemingly killed the former X-Man known as Mimic, before kidnapping the teen versions of both Angel and Iceman. Jean Grey and X-Force have been hot on young Cable’s heels, intent on rescuing the young mutants (not to mention get vengeance for the olde Cable), and as they attack and subdue the seemingly villainous younger Cable, their first question asked is, why did he murder his older self? The answer: Because he wasn’t doing his job.
Young Cable explains that his older self was responsible for keeping the timeline in order, to “squash any anomalies.” The fact that the Original X-Men have hung around for as long as they have proves that he wasn’t doing his job, so this young Cable arrived, killed his older self and undertook the task of making sure that the timeline was restored. He then lays out is complete detail why it’s so important that the Original X-Men return, why they must go home if the universe is to be restored, and yes, it involves terrible, unspeakably grim futures.
Simply put, if the X-Men aren’t part of the past, every single mission they ever took part in will be re-written, and all of the times that they saved the world will be undone. This will lead to disastrous consequences for not only the mutant community, but the entire universe. And as far as reasons for sending them away goes, it makes perfect sense based on the decades of comic book continuity that, had the X-Men not been a part of, would have gone very differently.
Young Cable, therefore, has been doing everything possible to get them home, including kidnapping and performing surgery on Angel to restore his original wings by way of taking duplicate wings off Mimic, who is not dead like we were led to believe. His methods may be blunt and downright scary, but all young Cable has been interested in is restoring the timeline and preserving the past as we know it. If even one of the X-Men don’t return to where they came from, the consequences could be dire, a dark reality that they all potentially face by the end of Extermination #4.
With one issue of Extermination left to go, we’re close to seeing if young Cable is successful in his plan to return the Original X-Men to their time, preserving history and avoiding the dark future their absence causes. With the presence of Ahab and his deadly hounds, however, it’s going to take the full force of the present-day X-Men to make sure history is saved. Looking at the final page of Extermination issue #4, however, they may already be too late.