Marvel has just concluded its biggest event of 2022 in A.X.E.: Judgment Day. This was the big crossover between the Avengers, X-Men, and Eternals franchises. One of the more notable things about A.X.E.: Judgment Day was that it did not have any major delays. The event stayed on track with its release schedule and mostly stuck with new mini-series and very few ongoings that had to tie in issues to the event. Overall it was an event that did have a different feel to it than what we’ve seen Marvel do with their past big events. Now that A.X.E.: Judgment Day is over it is time to look at what happened and what it all means for the future of the Marvel Universe
A.X.E: JUDGMENT DAY SUMMARY
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artists: Valerio Schiti (A.X.E.: Judgment Day #1 – #6) and Ivan Fiorelli (A.X.E.: Judgment Day #6)
Colorist: Marte Gracia
In a follow-up to Cyclops revealing to the world the truth about Krakoa having the ability to resurrect mutants Moira MacTaggert and Orchis convinced Prime Eternal Druig to have the Celestials and Eternals eliminate the mutant race after labeling them, Deviants. While the X-Men fought for the lives of mutants Iron Man and Sersi’s Eternals activated the dead Celestial that was being used for the current Avengers Mountain base. The Celestial came to life, naming itself Progenitor, and decided that all of Earth had to be judged, humans, mutants, and everything in between, for all he transgressions throughout history. After a long battle that saw various characters judged to be worthy and unworthy the Avengers, X-Men, and Eternals convinced Progenitor that it was a flawed God, and the Celestial reset things to how they were before the event started but with everyone remembering its judgment.
THE ETERNALS LONG ROAD TO THE TOP
There is no doubt that one of the biggest missions, if not the biggest, of A.X.E.: Judgment Day was to elevate the Eternals in the eyes of Marvel fans. While the Eternals have some of the strongest characters in the Marvel Universe that does not mean they have the same standing as the Avengers, X-Men, or Fantastic Four. A.X.E.: Judgment Day is the first Marvel event in a long time where the Eternals are placed in a leading role from the beginning.
Throughout A.X.E.: Judgment Day we saw how important getting the Eternals over was with Kieron Gillen and Valerio Schiti spending time to give Marvel fans examples of their mythology. From how the title of Prime Eternal was handled between Druig and Starfox to the power of Progenitor as a Celestial this was the Eternals time to shine.
The question is if they truly did shine. Because largely while the Eternals’ mythology was the driving force behind what took place in A.X.E.: Judgment Day there wasn’t one big superhero moment for the Eternals. The superhero actions were still largely left for the X-Men and, to a degree, the Avengers to carry. This is honestly the most surprising thing about A.X.E.: Judgment Day as we never got to see how the Eternals can be considered on the level of the Avengers, X-Men, or Fantastic Four when you think of heroes that will save the Marvel Universe from threats like Thanos or Kang the Conqueror.
Moreso than anything what A.X.E.: Judgment Day got over how much destruction the Eternals can cause in minutes. We see that early on with Druig when he was the Prime Eternal launching a devastating attack on Krakoa by sending The Hex group for the X-Men to fight. Then there is the Progenitor that showcased the power of a Celestial. All of that positioned the Eternals more in the antagonistic light. Adding on the revelation of the secret to their immortality it’s left the Eternals in a spot where they still have a long way to go before we can consider them on the level of the Avengers, X-Men, or Fantastic Four.
THE X-MEN FOREVER FIGHTING JUST TO EXIST
The X-Men found themselves in A.X.E.: Judgment Day in the spot they are unfortunately all too familiar with. That is being hated and hunted to the brink of extinction as Druig and Orchis used their anger over the revelations about Krakoa’s mutant resurrection protocols as a reason to launch a full-blown attack on all mutants. Especially in the first half of A.X.E.: Judgment Day there are a lot of similar elements to past X-Men stories as all our favorite mutants just fought to survive and save their people.
Even while the Progenitor did switch the target to every living person on Earth the X-Men were still the main driving force on the heroes’ side of things. We saw this with how much characters like Jean Grey, Cyclops, Wolverine, and the members of the Quiet Council were active in taking action to save Earth. So while A.X.E.: Judgment Day was a showcase of the Eternals mythology there is no doubt that the X-Men were the stars of the series as they had more screen time.
It could also be argued that the X-Men suffered some of the biggest losses in A.X.E.: Judgment Day. Because while Progenitor did set things back to how things were before A.X.E.: Judgment Day began it was only for Earth. This did not change things for things that happened on Arakko, the renamed Mars planet, which included a devastating attack that led to Magneto’s permanent death.
THE AVENGERS JUST VIBIN
One of the standout moments early on in A.X.E.: Judgment Day was when, while getting the non-fighter mutants to safety, Captain America questioned Cyclops about keeping the mutant resurrection protocols secret from the Avengers. Cyclops rightfully called out the fact that the Avengers have never been there for mutants when they need it most, the biggest example is how mutants were left on their own after House of M. This moment really defined the Avengers’ position throughout A.X.E.: Judgment Day. While they did rally to help out mutants and work together with the Quiet Council it’s tough to not see how their inaction in past events has not helped their relationship with the X-Men.
What else makes the Avengers spot worse is that the Avengers, specifically Iron Man, choice along with the Sersi’s Eternals and Mister Sinister to activate Progenitor made things a hundred times worse. In the final issue Progenitor even calls out the fact that part of its actions was due to the influence of Tony Stark on its programming. That fact while just thrown out there did speak to how the Avengers should be held more accountable for how things went.
To some credit, the Avenger that does take the events of A.X.E.: Judgment Day most to the heart is Captain America. This entire event did open Steve Rogers’s eyes that Cyclops and the Quiet Council may have been right in not trusting them after what just happened. Especially when Steve experiences how easily a mob of people could easily turn their support into hate Captain America did have the biggest character arc in the series.
At the same time, the final moments the Avengers get in A.X.E.: Judgment Day where they are joking about still operating out of Avengers Mountain made from Progenitor’s corpse just boost the perception they weren’t impacted by this event. They just happen to be around but this did not matter to them as they can go back to their normal lives while the X-Men and Eternals deal with the actual fallout of A.X.E.: Judgment Day.
MARVEL VILLAIN PROBLEM CONTINUES
Yet another event shows us that Marvel has a problem with the lack of credible villains. Early on Gillen works to establish Moira MacTaggert and Druig as the main antagonist of the story. We even saw how powerful Druig is through the power he wielded as the Prime Eternal by activating The Hex and commanding the majority of Eternals to attack Krakoa and Arakko. It was honestly an impressive show of force by the villains of the story, especially with how Uranos in particular was put over as one of the most powerful characters with how he single handily took out Arakko.
But just as we finally looked to have an event with powerful antagonists in Orchis and Druig’s Eternals the attention quickly shifted to Progenitor. Druig was even taken care of in a way that he was downgraded to nothing more than an annoyance. When Starfox took the title of Prime Eternal halfway into the story it did really feel like Druig was a means to an end rather than a villain to be concerned about.
Then there is the fact that Moira MacTaggert and Orchis disappeared after the first issue of A.X.E.: Judgment Day only to reappear for one panel in the final issue. This one-panel appearance was turned into a moment as Norman Osborn had at the end of Secret Invasion to give Orchis positive support from the public. It’s a moment that comes out of nowhere that gets to the next big impression left by A.X.E.: Judgment Day.
MARVEL’S RELIANCE ON TIE-IN COMIC BOOKS
Once again we have another big Marvel event where key parts of the story were told in tie-in stories. Coming out of the previous point the sub-plot with what Orchis had going on during A.X.E.: Judgment Day didn’t necessarily come out of nowhere. The Orchis sub-plot was told in tie-ins like Immortal X-Men. But it’s in that very fact where a major problem Marvel has with a big event has to be called out every time it happens.
For one Marvel is making it so fans to decide whether they have room in their pull list budget to spend on tie-in comics. And if not then would they drop other Marvel titles just to get the full story of A.X.E.: Judgment Day? Then on the creative side what does this say to the actual planning of A.X.E.: Judgment Day that not enough time is had for a key plot point such as Orchis involvement to be told? We had plenty of time seeing the Avengers, X-Men, and Eternals running around in circles trying to figure out how to defeat Progenitor. Was there no room for Orchis to be shown doing things in the background even if it was one page or a few panels in each issue?
The problem with the reliance on tie-in comics did not stop with Orchis. Uranos wiping out Arakko and how that led to Magneto’s death was all told in X-Men: Red while Jean Grey’s reference about how her time as Phoenix played a role in Progenitor’s judgment of her was told in A.X.E.: Judgement Day – X-Men. These along with other character moments that are ad in A.X.E.: Judgement Day does not hit with readers who did not pick up the tie-ins. Readers should be able to trust creatives to tell a strong story within the main series but that just simply did not happen the further we got into A.X.E.: Judgement Day. Tie-in issues became more important as the event went on and did impact the enjoyment of the story being told.
The most consistent positive in A.X.E.: Judgement Day was Valerio Schiti’s fantastic artwork. Throughout A.X.E.: Judgement Day we were treated to artwork that brought to life all the big event ideas Gillen had in mind. This was all a real showcase for Schiti’s abilities as he has been firmly positioned as one of the top artists working for Marvel.
Having an artist that can deliver big event-level art helped put over how the end of the world and everything going on during A.X.E.: Judgement Day felt. The Kaiju scale of Progenitor and The Hex captured the sense of awe and concern you had when these characters appeared. It made what the X-Men, Avengers, and Eternals had to overcome feeling like an impossible task.
Creating the question of how the heroes can turn all of that around you have to credit Schiti a lot for how impressive the artwork looked. Coming off A.X.E.: Judgement Day whatever comic book Schiti will be working on next will be a must-have.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE AVENGERS, X-MEN, & ETERNALS
Now that A.X.E.: Judgement Day we can say this event won’t have a big impact on the Avengers. The final scene with the Avengers showed that they are already moving past as if this event didn’t matter much to them. With the Avengers family of titles, we likely won’t see A.X.E.: Judgement Day factor in that much. That is because in the main Avengers titles the focus is on wrapping up all the plotlines Jason Aaron has been working on before his Avengers run ends in early 2023. Then titles like Captain America, Black Panther, Iron Man, and Captain Marvel all have their own stories that their respective creative teams will be focusing on.
On the X-Men side of things, we do see that A.X.E.: Judgement Day will have a bigger impact. The most immediate fallout has already been seen with the changes with Arakko over on X-Men: Red with Magneto’s death being kept permanent. The long-term impact of Magneto’s death will likely be something we will see a follow-up on since he was one of the founders of Karkoa and you know Charles Xavier won’t let that stand.
The other thing that this will impact on the X-Men side of things is the growing threat of Orchis. With A.X.E.: Judgement Day Orchis was able to obtain public support for their cause they didn’t have before. This will add further fuel to Orchis’ planning with Moira MacTaggert at the forefront of those plans. How the X-Men respond to this will be something fans will need to watch out for.
Finally, there are the Eternals that A.X.E.: Judgement Day was no doubt built to elevate in the eyes of Marvel fans. While A.X.E.: Judgement Day certainly gave the Eternals more attention on the comic book side of things than they had before we don’t know what Marvel is planning with the team. Outside of A.X.E.: Judgement Day Omega one-shot that establishes their spot in the future of the Marvel Universe there is no other announced Eternals comic book. It is really a terrible job by Marvel that they aren’t following up A.X.E.: Judgement Day with an Eternals mini-series or ongoing. Marvel is leaving a lot of time for Marvel fans on the comic book side to forget about the Eternals and for the hype to be minimal when an Eternals comic book is actually announced.