Bad becomes worse for our heroes —and even our villains, surprisingly— in week three of A.X.E.: Judgment Day.
Just one this week, but it’s a biggie: A.X.E.: Judgment Day #2.
As the giant Eternals known as “the Hex” rise from the oceans, our unseen narrator reflects on six ordinary individuals from around the world, all of whom are deemed to be “important” in some way. Tom, a Londoner sympathetic to the Eternals. Katrina, an internet activist from Vancouver on the side of mutants; Arjun, a jaded Mumbai citizen who assumes heroes will save them as always; Daniela, an overworked São Paulo resident too busy to be concerned with cosmic threats; Jada, a grieving mother from New York whose sympathy towards mutants changed after learning of their resurrection protocols; Kenta, a flippant Japanese teen who only cares about trivial matters in the face of present danger. The narrator reminds us that “remember: everyone is important.”
Back on Krakoa, Exodus leads the X-Men in a charge against one of the Hex (as seen in Immortal X-Men #5) but just as that one is taken down, another one attacks the island. A squad of Avengers (led by Captain America) join the fight while Iron Man aids Mr. Sinister and the Eternal priests in creating a new Celestial meant to end the war. Cyclops orders Captain America to help evacuate the majority non-combatant mutants to safety. Namor helps take down one of the Hex in the ocean, but this inadvertently leads to several natural disasters (earthquakes, tidal waves, tsunamis) threatening all nearby life. Cyclops sends the Avengers to prevent collateral damage and deal with the fallout. Exodus criticizes the Quiet Council for their lack of leadership, to which Destiny laments as historically being the plight of mutants: “We stand alone. We always did.”
The narrator contradicts Destiny’s assessment, pointing out various happenings around the world that suggest otherwise. The Avengers and the Eternal priests “harvesting” Arishem the Judge’s “thumbprint of justice” on Earth. Sinister scavenging for fragments of Tiamut the Dreaming, whom he once defeated. Makkari collecting elements of the first Destroyer that Odin built to fight the Celestials. Phastos building the body of the new Celestial, who we now know to be our unseen narrator, while the priests write the scripture it will serve. Tony Stark —who recently piloted a dead Celestial— lending his nervous system that will serve as the new god’s blueprint, identifying him as its “father” of sorts.
Exodus telepathically reads one of the Hex and learns it has a name —Syne the Memotaur— as do the others, claiming them all to be sisters. Exodus muses that if the Hex are indeed alive, then they can be killed and suffer in their own hell when dead. Syne telepathically begs Exodus not to kill her; they both perish in a large explosion. As Exodus and various other combatant mutants are resurrected with their most recent backups, not recalling the circumstances of their deaths, The Machine also rebirths the fallen Hex, who do remember everything.
The unseen narrator provides updates on the humans they introduced before. Tom continues to side with the Eternals. Katrina continues to tweet about mutant solidarity. Arjun is sacrificed to The Machine to resurrect Syne. Daniela is briefly reminded of the conflict until she’s forced to put on a brave face for her customers. Jada reconsiders her negative opinion of the mutants after encountering their harshest critics. Kenta largely ignores the danger surrounding him in favor of taking a blurry picture of Captain Marvel on his phone.
The Avengers and the Eternals prepare for the birth of the new Celestial. Ajak hopes the new god will be more like them than the old ones were as per their revised scripture. When another one of the Hex arrives to attack Krakoa, it’s stopped in its tracks by the arrival of the new Celestial, finally emerging from the ground. The new Celestial lambasts the people of Earth for being “bickering children” who have ruined the planet with their “unrelenting unkindness” to one another. He informs them that they now have twenty-four hours to rectify their behavior, or else there will be “no tomorrow” for them. This is their Judgment Day.
The new Celestial reiterates to the reader: “You are all important. Every single one of you.”
After two issues and just as many tie-ins, we finally got a title drop with the birth of the new, yet-unnamed Celestial — but it seems our heroes might have accidentally wrought more harm than good. (The road to hell is paved with good intentions, after all!) As if the stakes weren’t high enough, they now have twenty-four hours to advocate for the existence of Earth, or everything will be wiped out. No pressure! Did Druig anticipate this would happen? After all, it seems Judgment Day wouldn’t necessarily apply to the Eternals of Olympia, therefore ensuring his safety. Encouraging the destruction of Earth would certainly give him an opportunity to create a new world in his image, thus serving the god-savior complex he displays… or maybe it’s all just one happy coincidence for him. We’ll have to wait and see.
Now obviously I don’t think this event is meant to be a one-to-one allegory of recent events like the pandemic or heightened political tensions, but I do think Gillen is pulling from a very tangible sense of frustration and agony over the state of the world here. The new Celestial has decided Earth has run its course and grown overrun with cruelty, and it’s hard to not to feel that way about our real world right now. I think Gillen has an interesting opportunity here, reflecting on current events through super-fantastical cosmic shenanigans in an otherwise superfluous comic book crossover. Let’s see how that develops.
Lastly, I wanna touch on the six ordinary civilians we learn about in this issue. I think it’s a clever move to implement normal folk in a big, sweeping story like this that would otherwise ignore them because it shows how average people react to world-shaking events in different ways. A recent viral tweet questioned the plausibility of the events of Eternals not being acknowledged in any MCU project since then, specifically in that nobody seems to be freaking out about a large robot alien sticking out of the Earth, but is it really that weird compared to stuff that happens in our reality? Like when the ocean was on fire and we all just forgot about it? Or how American society is really intent on pretending the pandemic is over when it’s very obviously not? The human brain is a marvelous thing; it can convince itself of anything and choose to ignore the aspects of life it doesn’t like. As we see in the civilians here, some choose to really engage with what’s happening around them, while others choose to ignore it and move on with their lives regardless of how much danger they’re in. Poor Arjun placed his faith in heroes to save everybody when, unfortunately for him, his ultimate fate was never dependent on them, while Kenta simply does not care about his home being in the direct line of fire as long as he can take a blurry picture of Captain Marvel on his phone. Daniela is perhaps the most realistic of them all, knowing she simply lacks the time to care about what superheroes are doing with themselves because she needs to make a living for herself no matter how inconvenient or stressful. The Judging Celestial repeatedly reminds us that everyone, including them, are important; it remains to be seen how important they are in the story, if it all. Their very presence though does give them inherent value in establishing the stakes moving forward.
Next week, we’ve got a few tie-ins to look at: X-Men #13, X-Force #40, and A.X.E.: Death to the Mutants #1. Until then!
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