How Marvel Comics Cheapens Death

Mark Brooks’ beautiful artwork adorns the cover of Extermination #1

We’re looking at Marvel’s ongoing Extermination mini-series by Ed Brisson, Pepe Larraz and Marte Gracia, billed as the set-off point for the next big X-Men epic — the relaunch of Uncanny X-Men this November. You’re getting spoilers, and you’re getting spoilers, you’re all getting spoilers!

The time and universe displace X-Men

You’ll notice firstly that the book’s got a pretty cool cover, with the classic uniforms on one side, and the time-displaced variants on the other, split by a bolt of lightning, symbolising the penchant for lighting to strike twice, thrice, an infinite number of times when it comes to the X-Men. No holofoils or limited prints here, just some standout artwork from Mark Brooks.

The introduction serves up the theme of time-travel and correcting mistakes, familiar stomping ground for the X-Men, and most experienced readers might begin to wonder whether this mini-series is going to hold any water in the grand scheme of things, or is this just meant to be a fun popcorn-movie comic. Even if it’s the latter, the gods require a blood sacrifice — one of the most prolific tropes in compelling storytelling- and so Brisson sacrifices an alternate universe Ororo Munroe on the altar of the editorial and sales god. The weapon of choice was Ahab’s silver-laced harpoon, right through her vampire heart, and while that was traumatic enough, poor Bloodstorm wasn’t the only mutant to kick the bucket in this issue.

Multitask expert Cyclops cradles Bloodstorm and expresses himself

Fan-favourite Iceman was also decommissioned by an ally/antagonist in a svelte but still sour Cable from the near future…well, a nearer future than the classic Cable. The first five are on Cable’s kill list, but like any obsessive, he sees fit to even turn the gun on himself, and you’d understand why the brash youngster would adopt this approach. If in time he realises it was a bad move, he could just easily time travel back to this moment and undo it, right? But has death been cheapened in the era of media oversaturation? OK, so Marvel did its due diligence by keeping the original Wolverine dead or out of commission for the longest time, but as sure as the sun rises every day, they resurrected him in the Marvel universe proper, while Uncle Ben just keeps turning in his grave because of all the great responsibility that comes with great power.

So what next? Has the letters page already spoiled this one for us? Looking at the cover of Issue 4, slender Cable and Jean Grey face off against some concealed adversary or are maybe striking a pose amongst a pile of rubble just for kicks. Yes, the inevitable team-up in the majority of protagonist vs antagonist Marvel mini-series seems the obvious route, with Ahab most likely the foe the youngsters will battle, to exact revenge for their fallen comrades.

Marvel released their whole ‘Zombies’ title years ago, but with how character deaths are cheapened by character resurrections, divergent thinkers might see the entire Marvel catalogue, or the vast majority of it, as an endless font of undead stories.