Fighting a giant robot, bickering with allies, busting Harry Styles out of jail… just another Wednesday this week in A.X.E.: Judgment Day.
Just one biggie this week: A.X.E.: Judgment Day #3.
After making himself known to the world, Progenitor (the reanimated Celestial corpse) begins its judgment of Earth with Captain America, deeming him a failure for not leading his country —and by extension, the world— to better days. Cap refuses to let this discourage him, launching a worldwide broadcast to reassure everyone that they have nothing to worry about.
The various civilians of Earth all react to this in different ways. Tom half-heartedly praises Cap while doubling down on his mutantphobia; Katrina tries to distract herself from the news by shitposting about it online, but fails to feel better; Arjun’s widow Komali puts on a stoic face at the morgue despite feeling devastated about her husband’s death; Daniela briefly empathizes with the heroes before returning to her daily grind; Jada tries to convince herself to be optimistic but is keenly aware of reality; Kenta tries to use the impending apocalypse as an excuse to not do his homework, uncaring if his disobedience dooms the world.
At the Exclusion, Uranus praises Druig for his initial failure going horribly right, agreeing with Progenitor that Earth is beyond saving. Druig ignores him and orders the Hex to continue attacking Krakoa and taunts Uranos, telling him things will need to get a lot worse for him to let his grandfather out of his cell again.
Iron Man tells the Eternals that Progenitor contains a weak spot in its structure that could put an end to his judgment; Ajak decries this suggestion for being desecration, while Phastos says it would incite backlash to the Eternals as well as cause unspeakable collateral damage. When the priests leave, Phastos tells Stark that Progenitor should be their own responsibility, but attempting to tamper with him will likely force the Eternals to retaliate against them.
Mister Sinister takes advantage of this intel and telepathically reaches Destiny, telling her of Progenitor’s weak spot; she peers into the future and determines the plan would work if they tried it. Destiny, Shaw, Mystique, Exodus, and Hope vote in favor of the plan while Nightcrawler, Kate, and Colossus vote against it; Emma abstains. Elsewhere, Kro and his deviants enter Krakoa through the gates, implying that their genetic material is close enough to that of mutants for them to have access — which would also mean mutants are indeed deviants as Druig believes them to be. He offers the help of himself and the deviants to Cyclops.
Ajak is shocked to find that Progenitor has been compromised, initially blaming Iron Man before Sinister outs himself as the guilty one, claiming he acted in pursuit of the greater good no matter how many lives it would cost. But just as Phatos warned, this move activates the Eternals’ hard-wired coding to protect Celestials, forcing them to fight off the mutants in Progenitor’s name. Jean makes a clutch move and blasts Progenitor from the inside, which results in widespread obliteration… until she realizes it was her telepathy reading his mind to send out fake shockwaves out in the world, resulting in some deaths by heart attack but otherwise harming nobody else.
Progenitor lambasts more for their failures: Emma, Kro, Destiny, Mystique. He cites them as proof that the civilians of Earth cannot lay their trust in heroes to save them. Jean chastises Sinister for not warning her about what would happen, which he retaliates by saying she would have known had she not chosen to leave the Quiet Council.
Tony admits defeat, saying they have no other play than to let Progenitor judge them all like it claimed it would. Cap amends this by saying everybody needs to pull together to make it out alive, which gives Sersi an idea. She takes Jack the Knife —who’s only in it for a quick buck— to the Exclusion, believing it to contain a potential ace in the hole who could help get the world all on the same page: it’s none other than Eros, AKA Starfox, AKA Sersi’s fellow former Avenger, AKA the master of pleasure stimulation, AKA the brother of Thanos.
You didn’t think the plan to reanimate a Celestial corpse would work out for the heroes that easily, did you? As we see in this issue, bringing Progenitor (whose name I did not realize was actually a known entity until today whoops) back to life perhaps made the war problem even worse, because now the entire world is forced to save itself by acting on their best behavior… and if we’re using our real world as any indication, they’re almost certainly fucked. What does it say about Earth-616 that even Captain America, the goodest good guy in the world, isn’t capable of justifying their existence? I’m very interested to see who is –and isn’t— passing the judgment test moving forward. I’m pulling for my guy Egg Goldballs to be in the “pass” lane.
I’m also glad to see the civilians introduced in issue two continue to get a spotlight, using them as something of a Greek chorus to show the impact of mega world-shaking events on a micro scale and how they react in varying (often contemptible) ways. When Kenta is shown to be the kind of person who refuses to be minorly inconvenienced or challenged even if it means the existence of everything is at stake, well… have you noticed that a lot less people tend to wear masks in public than they used to a year ago? Despite statistics showing the pandemic has not only failed to end but actually gotten worse in some cases? I’m sure that’s completely unrelated and not at all emblematic of the stuff Kieron Gillen is commentating on here.
Additionally, the revelation that Deviants can pass through Krakoan gates is a major piece of lore that’s presented somewhat off-handedly, but has massive implications for not just this storyline but everything involving mutants —in comics and beyond— moving forward. As Kro states, this means their genetic material must be similar enough for them to be Deviants like Druig believes they are, but it also implies they’re indeed (distantly) related to Eternals like fans have speculated for years. Druig will undoubtedly feel vindicated in his efforts if he finds out about this, making him even more of a threat to the heroes, but it also has interesting meta-textual implications for the impending introduction of mutants in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Will those dots be connected similarly in that setting? Time will tell.
Lastly, the final page reveal of Eros —portrayed in the MCU by our greatest thinker of queer theory, Harry Styles— has interesting implications for what’s to come next. For those who don’t know, Eros possesses the general suite of powers granted to all Eternals, but he specializes in stimulating pleasure within others to such a degree that he can basically control minds. (So in other words, casting Styles as Eros is perhaps the canniest creative decision they’ve made in the MCU thus far.) But in regards to this story, Sersi might be on the right track in busting him out of Eternals jail, exploiting his “gift” to unite the world possibly through the power of thirst. How this development plays out remains to be seen, but given that he’s getting his own tie-in very soon, I’m sure we certainly haven’t seen the last of him yet.
Coming up, we’re back to another week of of tie-ins with X-Men #14 and X-Force #31. Stay safe out there and make good decisions worthy of Progenitor’s approval!