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.
While it’s true that the clue is in the title, the body count in Extermination -- this year’s major X-Men event -- has been surprisingly high. Not so surprisingly, issue #4 is no different, featuring perhaps the event's most significant death yet, one that will have far-reaching consequences for the mutant corner of the Marvel Universe.
Throughout Extermination, the original X-Men team -- Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Angel and Beast -- have been hunted on multiple sides as their decision to return to their own time drew closer to reality.
On the one hand, they were pursued by a young Cable who, as his name suggests, is the teen version of Nathan Summers, back from the future to kill the older version of himself before mysteriously going after the young mutants. On the other side was Ahab, another being from the future whose motivations seemed a lot clearer: murder the original X-Men before they return to the past.
By the end of this issue, he gets his wish, as he corners the mutants and apparently drives his harpoon through the head of Cyclops.
Ahab is -- like his namesake -- a single-minded hunter. In this case, Ahab’s "white whale" is mutantkind, a population he is determined to eradicate. Hailing from a dark future in which he is the leader of a government-sanctioned Hound program, Ahab forces mutants into his servitude as his hunters, helping him track other mutants.
Rachel Summers was his most successful slave, even though she managed to escape and travel to the present day in the early ‘80s. Now, though, Ahab himself has returned to the present and has been converting many X-Men into hounds, including Rachel, Nightcrawler and Old Man Logan.
Ahab’s first act in the present was to kill Bloodstorm, the alternate universe, vampiric version of Storm who was dating Cyclops. Since then, Ahab has forced the entire X-Men community to rally around the original mutant teens to try and protect them from his murderous ways.
Their latest gambit was to hold Cyclops in the undersea Atlantean base of the X-Men Red team, but Ahab drove his flying fortress ship Pequod down into the depths and brought the fight directly to the mutants.
As Ahab unleashed his hounds upon the X-Men, converting more mutants into his service as the battle continued, Cyclops refused to remain hidden, instead deciding to confront the man who killed Bloodstorm.
As Cyclops attacked him with everything he had, Ahab hurled his harpoon. It not only drove through the head of Scott Summers, the force of his throw also shattered Cyclops’ ruby quartz visor, skewering the young mutant to the wall behind him.
Extermination has had more than a few near-death fake-outs so far, and while there could be more to this moment than... meets the eye... if things are taken at face value, then the Marvel Universe has lost Scott Summers once again. That could have potentially catastrophic consequences for the timeline. It could perhaps play into this intriguing cover for the upcoming Uncanny X-Men Annual which features virtually every incarnation of the controversial mutant leader to ever roam the Marvel U.
Depending on the continuity's current grasp of string theory, if the original X-Men don't return to their rightful place in history, all of the hard work they’ve done in the decades since their first appearance could be unwritten, allowing untold horrors to befall the mutant community.