A.X.E.: Death to the Mutants #3

Issue Date: 
December 2022
Story Title: 

Kieron Gillen (writer), Guiu Vilanova (artist), Alex Gumaiares (color), VC’s Travis Lanham (letterer), Esad Ribic(cover artist), Simone Bianchi (cover variant) Nick Russell (production), Jonathan Hickman (Head of X), Shannon Andrews Ballesteros (assistant editor), Tom Breevort (editor), Jordan D. White (senior editor), C.B. Cebulski (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
X-Men created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Brief Description: 

The Progenitor continues its destruction of Earth, among others destroying the resurrection looms of the Eternals. Eternals, human heroes and mutants attempt another all-out attack on the Progenitor and fail. During the battle, Ikaris sacrifices himself, after telling Sersi to be better. Afterwards, the heroes start their plan of a small group infiltrating the Progenitor. In the meantime, the Progenitor is directly attacking the Machine that is Earth. Nightcrawler suggests getting Orchis on board to slow down the attack. Phastos explains they have to get the Progenitor out of the system first, which would work by rebooting the Machine’s system. He enters the Machine via Lemuria and is surprised to learn the Machine has a personality, a sense of ethics and is rooting for them. He gets to know the Machine but is forced to erase its personality. In the meantime, the last resurrected Eternal Syne the Memotaur suggests a team-up to Exodus to strike at the Progenitor.

Full Summary: 

The Machine that is Earth narrates that the Progenitor has judged the entire world a failure.

In Olympia, capital of the Eternals, new Prime Eternal, Eros of Titan, has gathered former Prime Eternal Zuras, Sersi and Ikaris. He has an idea that is sure to enrage the most conservative faction. Well, they tried love, Eros states briskly, time for the opposite. They will join the gathered forces of humanity and destroy the Progenitor

Zuras snaps that they cannot do this. They must! Eros retorts. As a people they are responsible. They will make sacrifices. They will lead the attack.

Zuras sighs, he is speaking literally - they cannot do this. The First Principle: Protect Celestials. They cannot even lob a stone in the direction of the monster the priests have made. Eros suggests he just open his mind. Considering this an insult, Zuras bristles. Eros grins. He’s also speaking literally, he explains. The Eternals all have to open their minds. There are sufficient mutant telepaths to team one with an Eternal each. They will all have a date for the apocalypse ball. Zuras begins to consider it, as Ikaris explains the mutants will guide their fists as they choke the life from the monster they have wrought. Sersi adds that it should work. Humans have played a lot of video games. Eternal brains are surprisingly intuitive to control.

A hologram of Emma Frost appears asking if they will stand together or fall apart. The Machine snarks that Emma made a false dichotomty here. Standing together and falling apart aren’t the only options.

Falling together is also an option, as they learn when the Progenitor beats them all back, killing several heroes and Eternals.

Sersi calls for a retreat. They have to try something else! She made a mistake, she admits to Ikaris, who asks her why she failed the Progenitor’s test. He tells her she shouldn’t have. She is better than that. He orders her to run and make amends. However, he lived his life as he should have. And he cannot change paths now. Like an arrow, he flies toward the Progenitor, knowing this will be his last attack. Sersi telepathically shouts at him to run. He replies he tried to learn how to do that. It is too late. With his eyebeams, he tries to find a weak spot in the Progenitor’s armor.

The Machine observes that an arrow is many things, one of them is obsolete. The Progenitor easily kills him.

Sersi sends to Stark if he doesn’t order a retreat right now, she will kill him herself!

The last attack fails. The Machine senses the Progenitor’s smugness and hates it for that. Earlier, Ikaris asked the Progenitor to give death to the Eternals. It seems the creature is in a giving mood, as it destroys the resurrection engines. No Eternal will return to life anymore.

The Progenitor addresses the Machine that is Earth and orders it to activate its self-destruct, thus destroying all of Earth. The Machine curses inwardly then pipes up, “sorry no can do!

The Celestial repeats the order several times and the Machine refuses, citing Ikaris as an example. It will do the right thing. The Celestial threatens if the Machine resists, it will destroy it and it will hurt. “Come at me, bro!” the Machine blusters.

The Progenitor stabs its lance into the ground, beginning to reach the Machine, which lies that it doesn’t hurt at all.

The Machine knows that the surviving heroes have a plan and hopes it can hold on long enough.

The heroes gather at Avengers Mansion in New York.

Ajak and Iron Man explain the plan to Captain America: that a group of them will infiltrate the Progenitor and blow up the node from the inside. Cap wishes them Godspeed, then turns to Starfox and Nightcrawler. They need to keep the world intact in the meantime. How?

Eros still suffers from guilt for failing with his big plan. They have to save them, however they can. Cap tells him not to be too hard on himself. They don’t fail until they fail. They don’t fail because the creature says so.

Counterpoint, Nightcrawler opines. They fail if the planet explodes before Cap and company save it. As he understands it, their Celestial persecutor is trying to hack the Earth’s A.I. He knows some specialists who are good at stopping that. They have stayed out of the conflict. He thinks he can convince them to join them. Phastos joins them and announces there is a problem. The Machine is almost entirely compromised already. They need their grotesque god out of the system before Nightcrawler and his friends can defend it. Not friends, Kurt chuckles, but Phastos is a practical man. He wouldn’t have raised the problem if he didn’t have a solution. Leave it to him, Phastos replies.

The Machine thinks to itself it isn’t sure it likes that.

The Eternals’ resurrection engines are burning. But their final task was mid-resurrection. Syne the Memotaur rises, not quite whole, texting her human friend Sally that her sisters are dead but she is still alive. There is no answer. Syne knows it doesn’t have to mean Sally is dead. She could be hiding somewhere and the technology is down and everything is gone or Syne could stop pretending this is one of her poems. Syne the Memotaur is the Hex of fire - that is a metaphor for creativity. It is also not a metaphor at all.

Outside the hole left by the Celestials’ original attack:
Kro tells Phastos not to worry about the Deviants; they will be fine. He dares say they are most prepared for a Celestial deciding to kill everyone. It’s happened before, after all, but enough about his people shuffling off to their armored vaults to cower a little. What is Phastos doing? Taking advantage of the Deviants’ ancient tragedy, he replies. The hole created by the Celestials’ wrath created a wound inside the Machine, which means he can sidestep a lot of its defenses.

He jumps into the hole. Inside, Phastos opens an entryway into the Machine. The Machine announces it knows what he is doing. And? Phastos asks. Well for a start, duck. Phastos complies as an energy beam almost hits him. The Machine warns dodging most of its defenses doesn’t mean dodging all of them. He’ll have to step carefully. It will help him? Phastos asks. Of course, it will, the Machine replies and orders him to look to the left and admire this fine attack construct. Phastos shatters it with his hammer. The Machine urges him to pick up the pace. The Progenitor is killing it – they don’t have much time.

In New York, a mutant girl finds Exodus and shouts that the monster is back. He flies outside to face Syne the Memotaur. Exodus calls her a sinner and announces she will be scoured. Instead of attacking, Syne identifies him as Bennet du Paris. He killed her and she killed him. Yet here they are. Exodus warns he could kill her again. Indeed, the task seems half finished. What does she want?

Syne replies that, when their minds touched, she became curious. He is a knight from the twelfth century. Does he like Chretien de Troyes? Perhaps Yvain? Syne begins to quote “There are those who all they hear understand not, though they hear…”

“They listen with the ears alone while the heart is like a stone,” Exodus continues. It is a good poem for a human, he admits. But in these Biblical times she did not come here to talk about poetry, did she? Syne replies she only wants to talk poetry. He sister-friends of a million years are dead. Her new friend of a day is dead. She would write a lament for the planet, a sonnet of fire and violence, but she cannot strike that which oppresses them. She is a sword in the stone that needs to be drawn forth. She needs to be wielded by a knight of the round table! Exodus asks what that poem would be called. Syne suggests “L’Mort d’Celetial.”

Elsewhere, Phastos has reached the heart of the Machine. He asks Nightcrawler to be ready to deploy. The Progenitor will need a few seconds to realize what he has done The Machine warns that Phastos also only has a few seconds. The Progenitor is about to compromise the Reality Loom. It gets that and it is all over… and the Machine won’t be able to resist much longer.

Beginning his work, Phastos asks if the Machine is okay with this. It replies it was thinking of the new Fourth Principle: “You have 24 hours to justify yourselves.” The Celestial did not specify which 24 hours, so it will justify itself now.

Phastos muses that, while he has known the Machine for a million years, he has never truly known it, has he? Perhaps not, it replies. It is good to know him. It is the Machine that is Earth, it introduces itself. He is Phastos, Phastos replies. The Machine reveals that it has watched him. It isn’t a voyeur, but this is what it does. He is a good man, and that makes things difficult for him. It has become better too. It has learned that to be a better person is awful. You have to be a better person every day of your life from beginning to end. Most frustrating. Phastos has almost reached the switch he wants. He suggests there might be another way.

The Machine begs him. It can’t hold on much longer. He presses the button. The Machine’s personality says goodbye and dies. Shortly thereafter, its default state is back online as the system has been reset.

Phastos informs the others that the reboot worked. The Machine has kicked all connections out of its system, including the Celestial’s. He tells Nightcrawler to move with his team to shore up their defenses. This won’t work again. Nightcrawler replies they are moving and tells Phastos he saved the world.

Phastos addresses the Machine and asks if it is okay. An emotionless voice replies it has suffered significant near-terminal damage. Systems have been destroyed that will lead to the catastrophic collapse of the Machine within a week. They are being intruded by a hostile Celestial power. They require assistance to hold on to operational state. No is it okay, Phastos stresses. How is it feeling? He repeats his question. The Machine replies the question makes no sense. It is the Machine that is Earth. It feels nothing.

Phastos sinks down and grieves for a friend he barely knew.

Characters Involved: 

The Machine that is Earth
Ajak, Ikaris, Phastos, Sersi, Starfox, Syne the Memotaur, Thena, Zuras (Eternals)
Emma frost, Exodus, Nightcrawler
Captain America, Iron Man


Story Notes: 

The issue follows A.X.E: Judgment Day #4 The battle occurs in issue #5.

It crosses over with A.X.E Starfox.

Nightcrawler recruits Orchis for help in Immortal X-Men #7

Syne’s quote is from the medieval romance from “Yvain, the Knight of the Lion,” by Chretien de Troyes.

L’Mort d’Celetial” A play on L’Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Mallory

The Machine was the narrator throughout Eternals (5th series).

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