Extermination #4 // Review
Ahab and young Cable’s motives are revealed in Extermination #4, by writer Ed Brisson, artists Pepe Larraz and Arid Anindito, inker Dexter Vines, colorist Erick Arciniega, and letterer Joe Sabino. This penultimate issue continues this series’ run of excellence, and ends on the perfect cliffhanger.
As Ahab prepares to attack Searebro, the Atlantis base of adult Jean Grey’s team, young Jean Grey and X-Force attack young Cable’s safehouse. Jean, wanting answers, telekinetically pauses the fight, and young Cable explains why he’s in the present and what his and Ahab’s plans are. Back at Searebro, the X-Men battle against Ahab and his Hounds, trying to keep him from killing young Cyclops. X-Force arrive to help, but will it be enough to stop Ahab?
Brisson expertly mixes exposition and action in this issue, and keeps the whole thing from being too dry. Giving explanations to time-travel stories can be headache inducing for readers, but he keeps the reveal simple. Cable and Ahab’s reasoning makes sense from each of their viewpoints; Cable wants to protect the timeline, and Ahab wants to make the destruction of mutants happen faster. Brisson gives a novel reason for why older Cable didn’t send the Original Five back, as well--sentimentality, a trait not often associated with hard as nails Nathan Summers, but one that rings true. Every child wants to meet their parents when they were younger, and even Cable couldn’t resist seeing his “parents” (Scott being his actual father and Jean being the gene donor to his mother and a surrogate mother in the Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix mini-series). These little things also play into one of the biggest strengths of Brisson’s writing and what makes this series so good: the characterization. Characters in this book makes choices based on who they are, not what the plot needs them to do to move it forward. It makes the whole thing feel more organic.
The ending is completely unexpected, and also follows this line of thinking. Without spoiling anything, one character jumps into a situation headlong, and it throws the whole business into turmoil. This character’s foolhardy actions are informed by what has happened in this issue, combined with who the character is. Deft characterization and the stakes of the story lead to a perfect cliffhanger, the kind of cliffhanger that doesn’t seem to have any easy resolution, making it both exciting and a little frightening. The book introduces what might be a solution to the problem that isn’t time travel related, but it’s not an ideal solution and could cause more problems than it solves. It’s a jaw dropping moment that matches anything from the book’s first issue, made all the more powerful because readers know the stakes and what’s going on now.
The only weakness in this book is the art. Pepe Larraz does layouts and Arid Anindito does finishes and the quality of the pencils is lower than it usually has been. There’s less detail than when Larraz fully pencils the book. However, the two page spread of Cable explaining why he and Ahab are in the present and the stakes of what could happen if Ahab succeeds perfectly fits Cable’s exposition, and has that classic X-Men dystopian-future feel to it. It would have been better if Larraz had time to pencil it all himself, but it’s still a great set piece and the crux of the story.
Extermination #4 delivers nearly everything it needs to. Sometimes, a writer will slow things down for the second to last issue of a story, but Brisson doesn’t do that here. He keeps the frenetic pace of the book up, and is able to fit in all the exposition without sacrificing any of the drama or action. The cliffhanger ending will throw readers for a curve and keep them on the hook for the next issue. The only weakness is the art, and even that’s a minor weakness. Extermination remains one of the best X-Men stories in years.