SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for X-Men: The Exterminated #1 by Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler, Neil Edwards, Jay David Ramos and Joe Sabino, on sale now.
Even by superhero comics standards, the Summers clan has one of the most complicated and convoluted family trees in the genre, so when one of them passes away, it’s kind of a big deal. Cable’s recent death in the first issue of Extermination set the stakes of what was to come in the status-quo altering event series, but the mile-a-minute pace of the X-Men’s mission to stop Ahab and his hounds hasn't allowed much space for the characters to reflect on their losses and mourn their dead.
This week’s X-Men: The Exterminated is a much more thoughtful and considered affair that brings together two fan-favorite Summers family members readers have been dying to see interact. Cable’s mother Jean Grey and his daughter Hope Summers team-up to track down and decommission his secret hideouts around the world and attempt to learn more about each other through their connection to the X-Men’s gruff, time-traveling freedom fighter, while Hope has a secret mission that she wants to pull off without the telepathic Jean realizing what they’re doing: They’re going to bring Cable back.
So, Cable kinda technically isn’t Jean Grey’s son... but he also is. The son of Scott Summers and Madelyne Pryor, Cable was first introduced as baby Nathan Christopher Charles Summers in Uncanny X-Men #201. It was later discovered that Madelyne was a clone of Jean Grey created by Mister Sinister; when The Phoenix Force doppelganger of Jean sacrificed itself on the Blue Area of the Moon, a portion of the Phoenix Force woke Madelyne — until then considered a failed experiment — up. Then came Inferno, which saw Jean Grey gain the memories both of her Phoenix Force doppelganger and Madelyne, so she had the memories of sacrificing herself on the moon along with the memories of and love for the infant Nathan Summers, who is biologically her son, even if she didn’t birth him.
Eventually, the baby was infected with the techno-organic virus and Cyclops was forced to send the child into the future to be saved. After Scott and Jean got married, they took a trip through time to the future to raise Nathan and help him control his powers under the aliases Slim and Redd Dayspring. Despite all of the weirdness in their past, Scott and Jean raised Cable into the man he became, and helped impart the teachings of Charles Xavier in a post-apocalyptic world.
Speaking of post-apocalyptic worlds, Hope was the first mutant baby born after the House of M and Scarlet Witch’s fateful “No More Mutants” spell, which saw the forces of the Marvel Universe descend upon Cooperstown, Alaska in order to be the ones to control the future of the mutant race. Cable was able to take the baby into the future, forcing Cyclops to once again send his son far away for the safety of a child.
Cable and the child, named Hope after a woman Nathan fell in love with and married on these adventures, continued to flee further and further into the future on the run from Lucas Bishop, who believed Hope to represent the end of the mutant race. They eventually made it back to the present and Cable sacrificed himself to stop Bastion and an army of Nimrod Sentinels, so Hope does have some experience with her dad dying and coming back already.