WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Extermination #1 Ed Brisson, Pepe Larraz, and Marte Gracia, on sale now.
Do superhero deaths mean much in the grand scheme of things? This is a debate that has been prevalent among comic fans for nearly a century. What is often seen as a gimmick to move more units in a comic book industry, the death of major characters is something that some fans roll their eyes at. Ever since Superman met his demise at the rocky hands of Doomsday during the height of the ‘90s comic book boom, only to see the Man of Steel return shortly thereafter, large chunks of long-time readers have been wary of any issue with a banner proclaiming it contains “The Death of [insert character name here].”
This level of cynicism has been ingrained in us thanks to the constant deaths and resurrections of some of our most beloved characters, and this emotional roller coaster is one of the main attractions in the soap opera that unfolds in the pages of myriad X-Men comics being published. Even before the ‘90s speculative boom, X-Men characters were frequently subjected to death and rebirth. Hell, it’s always been difficult to keep track of how many times Jean Grey or Professor X were “killed” only to be brought back by increasingly more ridiculous means in subsequent issues.
To be fair, the X-Men tend to keep characters dead for a relatively long period of time in a lot of instances. But sometimes, in a character's absence, there is some sort of analog to fill their void. We’ve seen a lot of this recently, following the death of arguably the most popular X-Man, Wolverine. In 2014 Wolverine met his end after losing his powers and being encased in adamantium. But despite the fact that James Howlett from Earth-616 was taken from readers, there were several other versions of the character still alive to glom onto in his stead.
Characters like Old Man Logan and the son of Ultimate Wolverine, Jimmy Hudson, both of whom were originally relegated to their own realities, were brought into the main Marvel Continuity; Literal Wolverine clone and fan-favorite, Laura Kinney donned her genetic father’s X-Man moniker; And even new Wolverines like Gabby (another clone) were introduced. In short, we almost had a baker’s dozen of Wolverines without our main dude there to throw his pointy-eared hat in the ring.
Now, with Wolverine returning (and sporting new and improved “Hot Claws™” no less), the fate of some of his clawed surrogates are most likely up in the air. If Marvel really is using the five-issue miniseries Extermination to consolidate some X-Men and dial things back to a relatively easy entry point for new readers (or just help long-time readers who are sick of getting migraines), there are a lot of duplicate and alternate versions of characters who had better watch their backs. Extermination #1 has set a pretty dire precedence for this early on, with the death of the vampiric version of Ororo Monroe from Earth-TRN643, also known as Bloodstorm.