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Fox’s new X-Men-adjacent TV show The Gifted introduces fans to Dr. Roderick Campbell , who is also known as the X-Men villain Ahab. Fans got their first look at Dillahunt’s villain in the second episode of the series, “rX,” in which Campbell introduced himself to Sentinel Services’ Jace Turner and offered him a partnership. Turner has his hands full with Emma Dumont’s Polaris and Reed Strucker, a former district attorney who ran from the law to protect his mutant children, but Campbell seems determined to work with him all the same . In the comics, Campbell’s origins are incredibly nefarious and the show hints that his designs might be similar to his comic book counterpart.
Much like his literary namesake, Ahab has only one leg and is obsessed with hunting down his prey. Unlike his literary namesake, he was able to replace his lost leg with a cybernetic limb, and his target isn’t a white whale, but all of mutantkind. As Ahab, Campbell helped brainwash mutants into becoming his “hounds” and used them to hunt down wayward mutants. However, he didn’t start out as a terrorist in the comics, but as a psychologist working for mutant researcher Moira MacTaggert, comics Campbell was actually determined to help mutants. However, after witnessing an alternate reality where he was driven mad by the loss of his leg and became obsessed with hunting down mutants, he set in motion a series of events that led to that very same future – as a result of his efforts to prevent it.
The comics encounter happened with the mutant Spoor, a mutant with the ability to release mind-altering pheromones. Initially using this power for evil, Spoor was soon taken into custody by the British X-Team Excalibur. Campbell tried to help Spoor, but Spoor triggered his cage’s defenses, severing Campbell’s leg. Whether something similar will happen in The Gifted remains to be seen (perhaps it has even already happened, and Campbell is hiding a cybernetic limb under that labcoat), but being maimed by a mutant would certainly give him a motive to hate them all.
In the comics, Campbell later went on to trade secrets on the Legacy Virus (a deadly pathogen that killed hundreds of mutants) to the Hellfire Club in exchange for his cybernetic leg. Fully embodying the “Ahab” persona, he was soon captured by the mutant Apocalypse, who made him into Famine – one of the four horsemen. His current comic book whereabouts remain unknown.
The Gifted is the perfect place for a character like Campbell. The first episode introduced audiences to a world where
mutants live under the threat of Sentinel Services, a government agency who “hunts down” so-called “dangerous” mutants. The series follows the Struckers, a family who discover that the Sentinel Services’ mission is just a smokescreen and they’re actually cracking down on the mutant population. It’s reminiscent of this year’s Wolverine movie Logan, which depicted a world that had managed to almost completely eradicate the mutant gene in the general populace.
Campbell might still surprise us with a turnaround, but the character’s presence and mission in the comics is anything but good. He’s being set up to work with Jace Turner, and while Turner may have what he believes to be good intentions, Campbell could quite easily manipulate him into doing real evil.