SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Extermination #4, by Ed Brisson, Pepe Larraz, Ario Anindito, Dexter Vines, Erick Arciniega and VC’s Joe Sabino, on sale now.
In theory, Ahab always should've been one of the X-Men's biggest villains. The harpoon-wielding cyborg is a major player in one of the X-Men's most famous future timelines, the dystopian world of "Days of Future Past." With his mind-controlled mutant-hunting Hounds, the former Doctor Roderick Campbell has subdued some of Marvel's strongest characters in any universe. He even appeared as a boss in one of Sega's X-Men video games and was turned into a pretty cool action figure in the 1990s.
Despite all that, Ahab was largely reduced to playing largely forgettable supporting roles for years. But now, the time-traveling mutant hunter has finally evolved into the major villain he always should've been thanks to a pair of prominent roles over the past year.
Ahab is the main villain of the Extermination event, where he's proven himself to be an incredibly powerful existential threat to the X-Men. In the miniseries, Ahab is hunting down time-traveling teenage versions of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel, Iceman and Beast, who've been running around the modern Marvel Universe since 2012. If he manages to kill just one of the original X-Men before they return to their place in history, the entire Marvel Universe's future will become a nightmarish world where mutants are somehow even more persecuted than usual.
Over the past few months, Ahab has murdered Bloodstorm, a vampire Storm from an alternate reality, kidnapped Iceman, and seemingly killed the teenage Cyclops on the last page of Extermination #4. While it's not clear if Ahab really did exterminate the teenage Cyclops for good, at the very least he almost made the X-Men's worst nightmare a reality with a single harpoon and a few brainwashed X-Men. That's a pretty massive accomplishment, especially considering other major X-villains have achieved much less with far more resources.
While most of the X-Men's biggest villains are built around their raw power, Ahab and his Hounds pose a uniquely psychological threat. The X-Men are a team built on trust and strong interpersonal relationships. With the Hounds, Ahab can subvert that dynamic by turning familiar faces like Nightcrawler, Old Man Logan and Shatterstar into feral predators.