Marvel prepares for battle with A.X.E. Eve of Judgment #1, the official prelude to their imminent crossover epic Judgment Day.
For me, there are two sure signs that summer has officially begun: the season premiere of Big Brother and a brand-new crossover event storyline published by Marvel Comics. With both now underway, it looks like it’s time for me to hit the ground running and begin my coverage of A.X.E.: Judgment Day! (Will I keep making a point of typing out the full name whenever I invoke it? Maybe!)
I know what you’re thinking. A.X.E.? What does that stand for? Well, dear reader, the acronym stands for the three major factions of the Marvel Universe headlining this event: the Avengers, the X-Men, and the Eternals. Each of them has been running parallel to one another for years, and now they’re finally on a collision course that promises to change things forever until the next time something changes things forever! After a string of similar events predicated on the formula of alien invasions, we’ve been overdue for a classic “X fights Y” setup, but this time there’s an added Z in the fray just to spice things up. Classics are classics for a reason, folks.
Here are the pertinent facts going into A.X.E.: Judgment Day:
- For the past several years, the Avengers have been operating out of their new base in the North Pole: the body of a dead Celestial. Some Eternals are none too happy about one of their gods being used in this way.
- The Eternals are caught in yet another ideological schism, this one prompted by the revelation that their immortality is fueled by human sacrifice. Some are not bothered by it, while others are vehemently opposed and seek to repent.
- Druig, the power-hungry telepath, has deposed Thanos as Eternal Prime. With his new political power, his sights are set on one specific goal: eliminating the mutants of Earth for their “excess deviation.”
- After establishing the island nation of Krakoa, mutants have expanded their empire into space, colonizing Mars and rechristening it as Planet Arakko with Storm as their leader. But unfortunately for them, word of their immortality is starting to leak out into the world…
- The Quiet Council remains in a constant state of political tension that has only been exacerbated by the resurrection of precog (and newest Council seat) Destiny, who warns of an incoming war between them, the Avengers, and the Eternals.
And with that, let’s begin.
After an ideological schism of their people, Druig—the newly ascended Eternal Prime—meets with Domo about the “mutant problem” on Earth. He considers mutants to be “excess deviations” that must be wiped out. Domo reveals that he has developed an anti-matter bomb that will detonate under Krakoa and eliminate its entire mutant population; Druig enthusiastically approves.
Elsewhere, Ikaris and Sersi help the deviants of Lemuria recover after an attack by Thanos and his sect of Eternals. Ikaris feels guilt over his existence and how their immortality is fueled by human sacrifice; he pledges to make amends however possible.
At the Exclusion, Druig taunts an imprisoned Phastos for his conscience, siding with Ikaris and Sersi over the cost of their existence. He states his desire to mindwipe the blacksmith, but allows Celestial priests Ajak and Makkari to bail him out so he can help them with a job of “great spiritual significance” to their people. The Machine—an artificial intelligence in service of the Eternals—notes to the reader that Druig plans to mindwipe them all at a later date.
In the city of Celestia, Ajak reveals her plan to Phastos: they want to create a new God, but they require a mutant expert to do so. Phastos refuses to help and leaves them behind, not knowing that they’ve already kidnapped Mister Sinister —the mutant expert— and are holding him hostage in secret.
Back on Lemuria, Thena speaks with Kro about the recent attack there and how Thanos’s destructive nature actually exemplifies him as an Eternal rather than discounts him. Sersi mentions that a cure for deviantism is being developed to prevent their continued extermination by Eternals. Kro says he does not feel sorry for his people, but that he actually pities the Eternals because he believes they will never truly be free. Sersi admits that she believes living as a mortal would not be such a bad thing,
Back on Olympia, Druig reiterates his rationale for eliminating mutantkind: mutants are already “strange” enough, but they’ve also effectively invented immortality for themselves and colonized Mars, which he deems to be excessive deviation. The Machine notes that, while he believes what he is saying to be true, he also sees the political incentive in uniting Eternals against a new common enemy, and it could secure his legacy among them for a million years. Right as they plan to detonate the bomb, however, The Machine interrupts them through physical retaliation. Domo cancels the detonation and explains that The Machine apparently recognizes Krakoa as a vital part of its existence and therefore cannot be destroyed wholesale. (The Machine confirms this to be the case.) Unsure how to proceed, Druig seeks the counsel of a genocidal expert: his war criminal grandfather Uranos.
If A.X.E.: Eve of Judgment is any indication, then the actual Judgment Day event itself will be dense as hell. I had to read this issue over three times to fully grasp everything within it, and I’m mostly familiar with recent Eternals lore. But you know what? I’m kind of psyched about that. A common critique of these crossovers posits that they’re too simplistic to the point of not justifying their own existence as anything but potential revenue streams. This, however … oh boy, does it expect a lot out of the reader. Not only should someone probably be up-to-date on Kieron Gillen’s Eternals run to really understand what’s happening, but they’re also gonna need to know what the Avengers and the X-Men have been up to over the past few years. It’s a lot.
But if you’re like me and you’ve been digging Gillen’s latest Marvel work (which also includes Immortal X-Men, arguably the flagship title of the X-Men line right now), then it doesn’t feel like homework. Promotional artwork for the event implies that the main conflict is between the X-Men and the Eternals, with the Avengers playing something of a mediator role in the middle, and that feels correct knowing which sandboxes Gillen has been playing in. The X-Men are back to their previous popularity in the comics, but the Eternals are still not exactly marquee players in the universe, so I can see the business sense in also injecting the Avengers into it, especially since they’re currently bunking in a dead Celestial. Everything about this event makes sense on a conceptual level: a logical progression of several plot points over different titles rather than a senseless cobbling for the sake of it.
With this preamble out of the way, we finally begin our journey in next week’s A.X.E.: Judgment Day #1. Until then!