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Sep 21

A.X.E.: Judgment Day #5 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, September 21, 2022 by Paul in x-axis

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Valerio Schiti
Colour artist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Editor: Tom Brevoort

COVER / PAGE 1. The Avengers, the X-Men and the Eternals in the shadow of the Progenitor.

PAGES 2-3. Recap and credits. To be honest, there’s not much annotation called for in this issue, since we’re deep into the story.

PAGE 4. The Progenitor renders its judgment.

And the characters who were already at the North Pole flee.

PAGE 5. The civilians react to the judgment.

Recall that last issue, Daniela and Jada passed, Tom and Katrina failed, and the Progenitor declined to judge either Komali or Kenta. Both Tom and Katrina appear to react to the judgment by developing the self-awareness that they were previously lacking, and that caused them to fail. Kenta is more explicitly rated by the Progenitor as a blameless innocent. Komali appears to be simply waiting to die so that she can be reunited with her late husband.

PAGES 6-7. Jada speaks to Captain America.

Jada apparently passed because of her genuine appreciation of the complexities of the world; she sees the world in more conflicted terms than Captain America, but she still appreciates his contribution.

PAGES 8-9. Nightcrawler takes Captain America to confront the Progenitor.

As we see in the next scene, this is apparently a deliberate plan to get Captain America killed in front of a global audience so that his symbolic value can be harnessed to maximum effect. The Progenitor understands that the events are being broadcast but doesn’t understand why. Maybe we’re heading to a story about its inability to understand the symbolism, or indeed its failure lying in an insistence on judging humanity as individuals rather than a collective.

PAGE 10. Nightcrawler returns to Krakoa.

Nightcrawler, as the most religious of the core X-Men, is naturally unimpressed by the Progenitor’s interpretation of godhood. The “spark” is his creativity-and-innovation philosophy from Legion of X.

PAGE 11. The Quiet Council and visitors discuss their plan.

From left to right in the first panel, that’s Iron Man, Starfox, Sersi, Jean Grey, Phastos, Ajak, Cyclops, Magik, Professor X, Krakoa, Destiny, Psylocke, Bishop and Starbrand.

War Captains. Currently Bishop, Cyclops, Magik and Psylocke.

“There’s a node inside the Progenitor…” The original attempt at this plan was in issue #3.

PAGE 12. The heroes rally.

Aside from a bunch of fighter jets, the characters on this page are (running from left to right in rough tiers):

  • Top tier: Jack of Knives, Starfox, Captain Marvel, Archangel, Doop, Jean Grey, Theiaka the Harpsicus, the Human Torch, and two more flaming figures who are hard to place.
  • Next tier: Moon Knight, someone on fire who might be Phoenix, Starbrand, Sprite, Nighthawk (currently an Avenger), Thor, Ikaris, Exodus, Namor, Phastos, Spider-Man (Peter Parker), Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Spider-Woman
  • Third tier: Makkari, Quicksilver, Northstar, Thena, Dr Doom, Iron Man, Sersi
  • Bottom tier: Rogue, Banshee, Mr Fantastic, Ms Marvel, the Thing, the Invisible Woman, Syne the Memotaur and Rheaka Centaurus.

PAGES 13-18. Everyone fights the Progenitor.

“Each one of the Stepford Cuckoos drives one of the soldier Hex. Mother Emma takes Mother Reginax.” “Mother Reginax” has previously been referred to as Phebe Reginax. Emma is the “mother” of the Stepford Cuckoos in the sense that they were cloned from her, but she’s also a mother figure of sorts more generally.

I’m not sure what those creatures are in page 13 panel 3. Maybe they’re something to do with the Deviants.

The original Captain Marvel died of cancer in Marvel Graphic Novel #1 (1982).

This level of slaughter would normally imply that the cosmic reset button awaits, but the ending of the issue does allow for another option.

“The planet itself has said ‘no’.” Presumably referring to the “Machine that is Earth” consciousness from Eternals.

PAGE 19. The heroes regroup at Avengers Mansion.

Apparently, what we’ve just seen was intended to trick the Progenitor into thinking that it had wiped out the heroes. Nightcrawler does seem to indicate that they were at least hoping that it might work, though, so it wasn’t just a suicide attack.

Page 19 panel 1 shows refugees from Krakoa arriving at Avengers Mansion complete with salvaged eggs for use in resurrection. Most of these characters are generics, but that seems to be Lockheed holding one of the eggs, and to his left, Angel Salvadore with the insect wings.

PAGES 20-21. The remaining heroes set off to face the Progenitor.

The team are Ajak, Makkari, Iron Man, Sersi, Jean Grey, Mr Sinister, Wolverine and Jack of Knives. Sinister is a curious inclusion, but he does have knowledge about Celestials, which is why Ajak and Makkari abducted him at the start of this series.

“I’m sorry I nearly stabbed that redheaded resurrecting girl of yours.” Hope, in issue #1.

PAGES 22-23. Captain America is resurrected.

This confirms that, as strongly hinted in previous stories, the mutants can resurrect non-mutants, they just choose not to. In fairness, we’ve been told that extending resurrection to the billions of non-mutants would overload the system. If you’re wondering how Steve can be resurrected complete with his shield, then we’ve previously seen characters resurrected with cybernetic components and metal implants; Proteus’s reality-warping contribution seems to be responsible for going beyond what could be done with cloning alone.

PAGES 24-25. Trailers. Note that the three one-shots A.X.E.: AvengersA.X.E.: X-Men and A.X.E.: Eternals take place before next issue – these three issues are all written by Kieron Gillen and appear to be important to the story.

If you’re wondering about this week’s other tie-in issues, neither of them is important. Avengers #60 is a fill-in story about the Progenitor judging Hawkeye; Fantastic Four #47 is a “bad guys attack the Baxter Building while the team are busy” story, which uses the crossover as a backdrop.

Bring on the comments

  1. GN says:

    Eh, there are actually only five Stepford Cuckoos so that made sense to me. Emma + 5 Cuckoos remote-pilot the six Hex.

    Also, I assume Jean Grey + Exodus were piloting Ikaris, Phastos, Makkari, Sprite, Kingo and the other Eternals during the attack.

  2. Paul says:

    So there are. What was I thinking? I’ll take that out.

  3. Luis Dantas says:

    I believe that it is Kingo Sunen, not Jack of Knives, at the top left corner of page 12.

    One of the flying people aflame is probably the current Phoenix, Maya Lopes AKA Echo. Others might be Sunfire, Firestar and perhaps Rachel?

  4. Michael says:

    It’s nice that Kurt and Steve are finally acknowedging that the Progenitor is a tyrant and that we should take its judgements with a grain of salt.
    “This level of slaughter would normally imply that the cosmic reset button awaits, but the ending of the issue does allow for another option.”
    I think that we’re still going to need a cosmic reset button. It was stated repeatedly there weren’t enough eggs left to resurrect all the Krakoans, much less the Krakoans and everybody else. Plus, the Eternals’ means to resurrect was destroyed and Ajak said that will end life on Earth eventually- the Progenitor is just trying to speed up the process.

  5. GN says:

    I agree with Luis – the samurai Eternal above Starfox is Kingo Sunen.

    I believe the two flaming characters next to the Human Torch are Firestar and Sunfire, both wearing their new Pepe Larraz costumes.

    The character behind Starbrand is Echo, based on the Phoenix fire that manifests as wings behind her.

    Also the new Thunderbird jet, which is probably carrying the non-flying X-Men, is on the bottom right.

  6. Mike Loughlin says:

    Will Sinister use a Moira? Can he? I know Judgement Day has to happen (per a data page in Immortal X-Men) for Sinister’s plans to continue, so we might be looking at the outcome most advantageous to Sinister.

    Great to see Nightcrawler given a significant role in the story. Outside of the Spurrier titles, he hasn’t been used much. I’m glad Gillen is writing him as the creative, playful, and thoughtful leader he was in the Alan Davis Excalibur comics.

    Other than “cosmic reset,” I wonder how this series could conclude. Will the Progenitor be convinced he’s wrong and imperfect? Will it reset time and the Machine? I hope the series keeps its momentum in its final third.

  7. Luis Dantas says:

    I’m betting on a variation of the solution Claremont (IIRC) suggested Roy Thomas for the X-Men to defeat Larry Trask’s Sentinels.

    The Eternal’s directives come from the Celestials and include avoiding excessive deviation. It has been established in this issue, if not before, that Progenitor is a very unusual Celestial.

    I expect him to judge himself unworthy of sustaining the Eternal’s directives and therefore void his own authority to judge others.

    It would be nice to leave this one story out of Captain America’s hagiography, though. Alas, that seems not to be.

  8. GN says:

    Paul> these three issues are all written by Kieron Gillen and appear to be important to the story.

    Apparently, A.X.E. Avengers 1, A.X.E. X-Men 1 and A.X.E. Eternals 1 were originally supposed to be Judgment Day 6-8 in Gillen’s original outline (with the current JD 6 originally being JD 9). Then, editorial realized that Schiti and Gracia couldn’t do nine issues in a short period of time so they brought in three other artists and made these issues into one-shots. We basically just passed the half-way point on the event.

    A.X.E. Starfox 1 on the other hand, is an Eternals issue that follows from Death to the Mutants 3.

    Paul> If you’re wondering about this week’s other tie-in issues, neither of them is important.

    The FF story was fine for what it is (a coda to Slott’s run before North’s run begins) but that Avengers issue was terrible.

    I know Aaron is busy writing his upcoming Avengers / Avengers Forever crossover, but they really should have gotten him to do this – he might have done a Black Panther issue. Instead we got a Hawkeye issue from Mark Russell that not only was another one of Russell’s ‘religion is bad’ spiels but it seems to completely misunderstand that this New Progenitor is a Frankenstein creation and not some random Celestial currently visiting Earth.

  9. YLu says:

    I like the implication that Proteus would actually be perfectly capable of resurrecting people clothed, meaning the Five are deliberately choosing not to.

    Nightcrawler stole the show this chapter.

    “I’m not sure what those creatures are in page 13 panel 3. Maybe they’re something to do with the Deviants.”

    The panel mentions the heroes “unleash” hell,” and I’m taking that to be literal. Those look like demons. The heroes even look like they’re coming out of some fiery portal, as opposed to the neat hexagonal ones associated with Eternal gates.

  10. GN says:

    I believe those are Deviants actually – Kro brought his legions over to Krakoa in issue 3 to help the mutants fight the Eternals. It’s not a stretch to think they’d help fight the Progenitor as well.

    Seeing as they show up in a panel with Cyclops, Wolverine and Psylocke, they must have all flown in on the Thunderbird.

  11. YLu says:

    Allowing that the whole point of Deviants is that they all look different, they don’t look like Deviants to me. They’re naked and quadrupedal.

    Maybe they’ll be Deviants who underwent excess deviation, though. Morally iffy, but there’s already been precedent.

  12. Diana says:

    @Mike: Does Sinister even need to use a Moira, though? If the Progenitor blows up Krakoa, that will presumably kill the clones anyway and the timeline will reset

  13. Si says:

    Well that Pervy Proteus revelation has made the entire Krakoa era worthwhile for me.

  14. neutrino says:

    The thing keeping non-mutants from being resurrected is that Cerebro doesn’t detect them and therefore doesn’t record their memories. When and how were Cap’s recorded? You wouldn’t need the Five, just standard cloning.

  15. Devin says:

    Natasha came back from the dead via Red Room clones+mind backups in Tales of Suspense a few years back. Is that relevant to today? I guess not, but I keep thinking about it whenever I see Red Room Mutant Ursa Major.

  16. Michael says:

    @neutrino- The dialogue makes it clear that Kurt’s plan was for Cap to be killed. Since tricking his comrades into suicide missions is out of character for Kurt, I think the idea is Kurt had Professor X modify Cerebro to record Steve’s memories before Steve went to confront the Progenitor.

  17. tq says:

    Professor X was broadcasting from Steve and Kurt’s minds, so I assumed that Cerebro was backing up their memories at the same time.

    I’m wondering about the non-human people who died like Thor. Would resurrection work for them? Or is a reset button required to get Thor back? I guess a reality warper could handle the resurrection like Jamie did for Brian.

  18. The Other Michael says:

    Obviously, this story can’t end with most of the major heroes dead, Krakoa devastated, the world burning. So we’re definitely headed towards a reset button of some sort to fix things.

    “For my final act,” says the Celestial as it prepares to leave Earth, waving a hand and restoring everything and everyone…

    Meanwhile, Steve Rogers is one step further removed from his original self–a clone of a Cosmic Cube memory and so forth…

  19. Si says:

    The most obvious reset button is Sinister’s pretty-much literal reset button, but man would that feel like a massive cheat.

  20. Ceries says:

    This is mostly just really disappointing, honestly. There’s no real tension in the story, and a lot of it has felt more like it’s moving through a checklist-the Eternals attack, the Celestial gets made, the Eternals attack again, Druig is overthrown, Uranos is let out, Uranos is defeated…the events simply happen one after another, with no real weight.

    The arbitrariness of the Celestial Judgement combines poorly with the attempt to simultaneously give it pathos here and in other books-having established that the Celestial is a jerk who’s making arbitrary judgements based on shifting criteria, there’s no weight to the fact that it fails Steve or passes Cyclops, or even that it fails Tom the Racist Man and passes Jada the Ordinary Black Woman.

    I honestly thought Gillen was a better writer than this. Maybe event comics are just really hard to do well.

  21. YLu says:

    I think how the characters stack up against each other (e.g. “Dr. Doom passed while Emma didn’t”) isn’t really the point. It’s more about each individual tests and judgment, in terms of how it’s a portal into each person’s regrets, flaws, self-perception, etc. I didn’t enjoy the Marauders tie-in issue, but I did find it interesting how Orlando didn’t even bother to reveal the final judgments, focusing entirely on the trials themselves. ‘Cause that’s where the real storytelling juice is.

    As far as event storytelling goes, it’s actually a great hook to build tie-ins off of. Much more so than the “Here’s the big threat that everyone’s fighting in a different way” of typical events. I’m kind of surprised more books aren’t taking advantage of it.

  22. Alexx Kay says:

    The reference to “unleash hell” made me immediately think of Limbo. If that was the intention, however, it was odd to not include either Ilyana or Madelyne.

  23. Loz says:

    I don’t know how they are going to hit the reset button but it will be some sort of ‘everyone remembers but all the dead come back’ type, because I doubt they can spread that out over the three or four issues still left to us. So I assume the Celestial will be off the board one way or another by the end of the next issue and then we get to what we always come to crossovers for, the heroes fighting amongst themselves. As all the heroes are pretty pro X-Men at the moment and they are seperatist, and have been given the power to control the Eternals, I suspect some sort of post-Judgement Day attempt to enslave them, they’ll be freed by the Avengers and everyone will go back to their status quo.

    I doubt that the thing between Mr Fantastic and Professor X will come in to play directly here but you never know.

  24. YLu says:

    Isn’t the typical way of crossovers the other way around? First it’s the fight, then the team-up? And we’ve already had the fight portion.

  25. Karl_H says:

    It was terribly unfair to ask Mark Russell to write a tie-in without explaining the basic plot of the event to him. In the main story, the state of the world from the moment the Progenitor comes online is best described as “mid-apocalypse” and yet Hawkeye is having a fairly ordinary day when the (unusually chatty) Celestial shows up, and no one else seems to even know what’s going on. He’s actually able to go home and wait around to find out the result. The story also seems to think it understands the Progenitor’s criteria, but I have my doubts.

    Clearly this is a tie-in to a different crossover, Judgement Day, and editorial got all confused.

  26. Loz says:

    @YLu: I *know*, whatatwist!

    … Although the most recent ‘Secret Wars’ did the same.

    @Karl_H: Peter David had an entire plot based around how he thought ‘Infinity Gauntlet’ ended as opposed to how the comic had it end. I’m just confused as to how this can be happening in a series where the entire main cast are supposed to be off in other dimensions fighting Mephisto. You’d think this entirely forgettable story would be shuffled off into a ‘Avengers: Judgement Day’ special or something.

  27. Michael says:

    @Karl H, Loz- And in Atlantis Attacks, Atlantis was destroyed TWICE because Louise Simonson and Rob Liefeld couldn’t follow their part of the outline. (In the previous chapter, we see U-Man swimming toward the Avengers’ headquarters. In Simonson’s and Liefeld’s chapter, the New Mutants team up with Namorita to fight a sea monster that’s destroying Atlantis. In later chapters, we see Atlantis being destroyed with a nuclear bomb and the Thing talking about how Namorita helped stop U-Man’s assault on the Avengers’ headquarters. What happened was that Simonson and Liefeld were supposed to produce a story about Namorita helping the New Mutants stop U-Man’s attack on the Avengers’ headquarters but instead turned in a story about Namorita helping the New Mutants against a sea monster that was destroying Atlantis.)

  28. Sam says:

    I read Gillen’s Eternals and enjoyed it. I was picked up the main series of this crossover, but after reading this one, I’m done with it. It’s terrible.

    I would rather read the Hellion’s Fall Special #1 which involved a flashback story to the Claremont Hellions being kidnapped to Olympus, fighting Ares, and Catseye having a relationship with an Olympian Cat-man prince.

  29. Simon says:

    I understood Cap’s resurrection with the shield to be a result of Kurt having gone back to retrieve his actual body, after he excuses himself in the middle of the issue.

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