After the Eve of Judgment comes A.X.E.: Judgment Day #1, and it’s gonna be a bad few months for the mutants of the Marvel Universe…
Just the #1 this week!
An unseen narrator who does “not yet exist” but speaks in the style of The Machine informs us that there is much we need to know.
In New York, Tony Stark meets with Sersi, and she warns him of an upcoming war on Earth. Before she can elaborate, however, Sersi is ambushed and apprehended by the Avengers. Meanwhile, Cyclops and Jean Grey observe an anti-mutant protest happening on the streets, with protestors rallying against the revelation that mutants can resurrect themselves but refuse to help anyone else. Cyclops defends their kind by saying “as not as if everyone has stopped killing mutants.”
On Krakoa, Destiny speaks with Mystique and Nightcrawler about the prophesied war and identifies the Eternals as the instigators. Destiny goes to warn the Quiet Council while Nightcrawler transports to Arakko to notify the Great Circle of the development. When Nightcrawler asks what quarrel the Eternals have with them, Magneto responds by saying they are “new gods” displacing the “old” ones.
On Avengers Mountain, Stark interrogates Sersi to learn what the Eternals are up to, citing an earlier incident wherein Ajak and Makkari sneaked into their base for reasons unknown. He surmises that Thanos had something to do with it based on him temporarily leading the Eternals. Captain America soon intervenes and tells Stark to go easy on their former Avenger; they know the Eternals are waging war but not towards whom or why. Sersi is shocked by this news and pleads she is just as in the dark about it as the Avengers are but warns them she is not the Eternal they need to worry about.
Earlier on Olympia, Druig requests permission from the Uni-Mind to attack Earth’s mutants, whom he insistently refers to as “deviants” to emphasize the cause. When they unanimously vote in the affirmative, he releases Uranos from his prison cell to wreak havoc on the mutants for exactly one hour. Druig then confers with Moira MacTaggert (as seen in X-Men: Hellfire Gala #1) to learn how he can most effectively attack the mutants. Recently depowered and harboring a grudge against the island nation she helped build, Moira now represents Orchis—the anti-mutant organization—and seeks to see them ruined just as much as he does.
Per Moira’s suggestion, Druig first attacks Krakoa through a psychic assault that affects all of their telepaths, interrupting the Quiet Council’s meeting about the war. With Krakoan leadership now distracted and incapacitated, Druig sends a fleet of fighters to keep the X-Men busy while Jack of Knives, their best assassin, is ordered to murder the Five so they cannot resurrect themselves later. Wolverine manages to save Hope Summers and the surviving members of the Five in enough time so that they can be recovered. Moira chastises Druig for not successfully completing his mission, but he promises that his plans go beyond this initial assault.
On Arbor Magna, Wolverine and several other mutants (including Goldballs Egg) are resurrected with backup embryos that Goldballs Egg fortuitously thought to prepare earlier that day.
Back on Olympia, Druig puts Uranos back in his cell, having just laid waste on Arakko; he also criticizes Druig for not completing the plan as intended. Demanding to be taken back out, Druig informs Uranos that his services will no longer be necessary, as he now has the power to deploy The Hex—a shadowy group of Eternals whose purpose is unknown to most and do not participate in the Uni-Mind.
Back on Earth, the Avengers get word of the attack on Krakoa. Druig then dispatches a message to the inhabitants of Earth, informing them that the Eternals are going to fulfill their goal of protecting humans by eliminating all mutants and to not be afraid of what will be coming to do just that—massive Eternal titans, AKA The Hex. Captain America decides it’s time for the Avengers to assemble. He informs the group that Sersi and her friends have split off from Eternals society but they still don’t know why. Moments later, Ajak and Makkari reveal themselves to the Avengers and apologize for breaking into their base earlier. They state that Druig’s war is a holy one born of holy scripture, and the only way they can end it is to create a new god with the power to rewrite their dogma. Stark approves of the plan and asks how they help. Ajak’s response: the dead Celestial they’re currently standing inside.
As first issues go, A.X.E.: Judgment Day #1 does a pretty great job of setting up this event without it feeling like “homework” or superfluous action, which they often do for this sort of narrative. A lot of the setup was handled in last week’s Eve of Judgment, but that mostly focused on the Eternals’ perspective and much less that of the Avengers or X-Men. Here, all three letters of the titular acronym were accounted for, and they each have varying goals. The Eternals (or some of them, anyway) want to eradicate mutants. The mutants want to protect themselves. The Avengers want to keep the war from causing total destruction of the world. It’s already a lot more compelling than the last several ones of these (e.g. Inhumans vs. X-Men, Empyre, King in Black) because each side has believable rationale for their involvement.
It also helps that Druig is just a good villain with a plan that, although ridiculous and disagreeable (especially to X-Men fans), contains enough internal logic that you’re willing to go along with it. Mutants have long been implied to have some sort of connection to the Eternals, and this event is finally spotlighting the subtext and the implications it has on the universe. You can understand why Druig would decide mutants are deviants after the establishment of Krakoa, and therefore need to be exterminated as their dogma dictates. It also helps that he’s shown to be unambiguously evil through the way Sersi and others oppose him. He’s clearly in the wrong but in a way that makes sense.
Complicating matters even further is that we’re shown that human opinion of mutantkind is at an all-time low now thanks to the resurrection bomb, so when Druig announces his plans, they actually approve of what he’s doing. Jean notes in the early part of the issue that humans’ resentment of mutantkind is less about fear and hate and more about jealousy, which succinctly identifies the reason why they’ll never be safe unless they truly unite for a common goal, i.e. Krakoa. Sure, humans may hate and fear mutants, but perhaps above all else, they’re jealous of them whether or not they realize it. That’s maybe the most apt way the persecuted minority allegory fits into modern socio-political relations, and there’s value in underlining it here. The majority group always resents the minority for being representing what they aren’t, and it manifests through the guise of hate and/or fear. That’s why a normie human in the Marvel Universe might approve of Captain America or the Hulk but hate Magneto or Nightcrawler. The former gained their powers through accidents or “earning” them, while the latter were just born that way. It’s not contradictory; it’s perfectly logical. In our real world, minorities are targeted for attributes assigned to them pre-birth. Why wouldn’t the same apply to mutants?
I’m very interested to see how this storyline progresses, but especially in the main book with writer Kieron Gillen and artist Valerio Schiti, who both turn in the near-best work they’re capable of here. Gillen’s double duty on Immortal X-Men and Eternals is especially another reason why this event has potential; there’s a cohesiveness there often missing from these crossovers.
Nothing next week, but we’re back the week after with tie-ins from Immortal X-Men #5 and X-Men: Red #5. Until then!