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The final issue of Marvel Entertainment’s Extermination series has been released, closing out a six-year era of X-Men comic books by wrapping up a long-dangling plot element — and, in the process, upsetting fans with how it was achieved.
The fifth issue of the miniseries by Ed Brisson and Pepe Larraz follows through on the promise present throughout the series, by sending the time-displaced younger versions of the original X-Men — Cyclops, Marvel Girl, the Beast, Iceman and Angel — back to the very moment they were kidnapped from, back in 2012’s All-New X-Men No. 1, to preserve the integrity of Marvel comic book history. But there’s a cost, and it’s one that not everyone is comfortable with.
In 2015’s All-New X-Men No. 40, the teen Iceman was outed as being gay, a development that got no small amount of media attention and significantly upped the profile of a character that had been around since 1963’s X-Men No. 1 but remained a mid-level hero in terms of fan base and attention. It was also a narrative problem for the larger Marvel Universe timeline. If the Iceman of the past had come out as gay — albeit in the present, because time travel — then what happened to the Iceman of the present, who was not being portrayed as being gay, and more to the point, how would this revelation impact the Iceman of the past when he was returned to his correct time period?
The first of those issues was quickly, and easily, dealt with: The older Iceman came out himself seven months later, in Uncanny X-Men No. 600. As for the second, that’s where Extermination ran into criticism.
In the issue, the original X-Men are returned to their own time period and discuss how to best protect the timeline — namely, wiping their own memories of the future and everything they discovered while they were there. “We can’t suspect anything’s changed,” Jean Grey argues. The problem being this purposefully puts the younger Iceman back in the closet, a creative decision some are unhappy about.
The subject is, briefly, touched upon inside the comic itself; before the teen Iceman returns to his time period, he has a conversation with his older self. “I’m not the same person. I don’t want to go back to pretending I’m something I’m not,” he says. His older self attempts to comfort him by saying, “No matter what happens when you go back… you finally let me be honest with myself. And no one can take that from us.”
Extermination No. 5 is available now digitally and in comic book stores.
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