A.X.E.: Eve of Judgment

Issue Date: 
September 2022
Story Title: 
Eve of Judgment

Kieron Gillen (writer), Pasqual Ferry (artist), Dean White (color), VC’s Clayton Cowles (letterer), Valerio Schiti & Marte Gracia (cover artists), Ivan Shavrin (cover variant) Nick Russell (production), Jonathan Hickman (Head of X), Shannon Andrews Ballesteros (assistant editor), Jake Thomas (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: 

A group of Eternals has split from Eternals society, disgusted by the fact that the Eternal resurrection process takes a mortal life each time an Eternal is resurrected. Now, new Prime Eternal Druig plots the mutants’ destruction to rally Eternal society and strengthen his hold on them. He releases Phastos as a sign of goodwill to the priests, Ajak and Makkari. The two plan to create their own God, their own Celestial, and want Phastos’ opinion on whether it can be done. He tells them it can, but warns them not to do it, and they would need the mutant expert to help. He leaves, unaware that they have already kidnapped said expert, Mr. Sinister. Phastos joins his friends, who currently live among the Deviants in Lemuria. Many Deviants still bristle at the Eternals’ recent attack on Lemuria and one of them attacks Ikaris. He manages to stop her without killing her, but admits she is right and the Eternals need to be better. Thena takes a walk with Deviant leader Kro and they talk about their past relationship. They are joined by Sersi. Kro has learned from them that the Deviants were actually the most important species to the Celestials all along. Kro reacts sarcastically but points out that they still have more freedom than the Eternals. Thena promises they will try to find a cure for excess deviation. Druig has scientist Domo prepare an antimatter bomb to release under Krakoa, thus killing the mutants. However, when they start the process, the Machine that is Earth almost kills them until they stop. For some reason, Krakoa itself cannot be destroyed by the Machine, meaning Druig has to think of another method. Soon he is in talks with his grandfather Uranos, currently imprisoned for being the most dangerous Eternal.

Full Summary: 

The Machine that is Earth announces that all is calm and well. It’s so quiet even the Avengers are relaxing. Tony Stark is proud of the breakfast he has made from his Iron Waffle 3000. Carol Danvers thinks Tony has overdone them a bit but decides not to mention it.

The Machine admits to admiring the mutants on Krakoa. They were smart enough to found their nation in a lovely climate. They are not even worried about the seas rising because their island home is sentient and can move.

The Machine decides it is a lovely day for everyone, before looking at Olympia, specifically new Prime Eternal Druig. With his wildest dream come true, perhaps now his awful ambition will be sated. Yes, other small men on big thrones have been driven to paranoia from the insecurity. But perhaps Druig can overcome that and finally just be happy, the Machine hopes.

Its hope does not come true, as Druig joins the Eternal scientist Domo and asks how he would kill all the mutants…

Domo, who doesn’t care about ethics, has just the thing, namely an antimatter bomb. They drop it at a node beneath Krakoa, activate it… and the mutant problem on Earth is gone. The ones on Mars won’t know who did it but they’ll have cauterized the heart of the experiment. If they don’t implode into civil war, Druig can deal with them further down the line. Druig is impressed and orders him to prepare the attack swiftly. He wants to annihilate the mutants in time for evening drinks.

Lemuria, home of the Deviants, recovering from an attack by Thanos and the Eternals:
Among the Deviants is the group of Eternals that split from Eternal society: Ikaris, Sersi, and Thena. The Eternals have three principles: Protect Celestials, protect the Machine, correct excess deviation. They cannot resist this but there is room for interpretation. This group of Eternals and some others left their society, after they learned that in order to bring back an Eternal from death the Machine extinguishes a human or Deviant life.

For Ikaris, that was an unbearable truth. He takes to protect the Machine to include protecting humans. Ikaris tries to clean up the rubble of the attack. One Deviant, Crimson Karlau, bristles at their presence after Eternals caused this attack. She is in the throes of further mutation. She attacks Ikaris and flies upward with him. Ikaris throws her down and telepathically orders Sersi to trap her, which she does with her transmutation power without hurting her.

Karlau mocks if this is proving anything; all it shows is they could have done this at any time. And they never do. Ikaris wants to make excuses. When excess deviation happens, Eternals have no control, but he has killed many Deviants who weren’t suffering from excess deviation. Before he flies away, he announces she is right. They will be better. He rejects everything of his people. They have much to make amends for. To all the mortals of Earth.

Sersi feels regret for tricking him into believing he has to keep the secret. She knows the Eternals would be hated if the truth were known. And she knows what rash action that knowledge could prompt among the best of them. She knows what it did to Phastos and where he ended up…

The Exclusion, the Eternals’ hell on Earth:
This is where Phastos is currently imprisoned. The Machine that is Earth muses that he doesn’t deserve to be there, but in that he isn’t alone. Take Excluded E, for example. Unlike most of the others, Excluded E is kept not for what he has done but for what he could be used to do. In reality, he is kept because he has fallen into the Eternals’ hands for the first time, so they are loath to let him go. And he is a matter of scientific curiosity. The Machine adds that the Celestials crated a 100 Eternals, so why are there 101?

Prime Eternal Druig enters Phastos’ cell. What to do with a problem like him? he muses aloud. He and his friends hiding in Lemuria just because they are so upset about a quirk in resurrection. He wonders whether they should delete that memory. Forcefully Phastos states that each time an Eternal dies and gets resurrected, one of the humans dies. How can they bear that?

Druig feels some pity. How awful it must be to have those pangs of conscience. Phastos can’t, Druig states bluntly, that’s why they should mindwipe him and get him back to work, but there is a request from Ajak and Makkari.

The two priests enter and ask Phastos to join them. There is a work of great spiritual significance. Phastos asks them not to make a deal with Druig for this. Druig asks him not to be silly. This isn’t a tawdry deal. This kind of leadership is what they should get used to. He takes matters of faith intensely seriously. Ajak proclaims that he has no faith in his heart. He barely has a heart in his chest. But his gesture of populism is appreciated. The two priests take Phastos along with them.

Druig’s game is a simple one: he could mindwipe Phastos, but his friends would simply tell him the truth. Instead, Druig can gain some political capital by helping the priests, until he can mindwipe them all. Until then: What’s the worst thing a bunch of priests could do?

In Celestia, Eterrnal city of the priests, Phastos is learning just that, namely that Ajak and Makkari want to build a god. He studies the data Ajak gleaned from her séance with the Progenitor’s ghost. There’s a wide variety of technical problems he doesn’t know how to solve. That would mean they would have to kidnap the mutant expert. He warns them the Krakoans would be terrible enemies. And even if they do get and solve everything, much is uncertain. They do not know if this god will be to their liking. He refuses to help. Without a far better reason, he cannot assist them.

Ajak replies that he already has, because he told them it could work. She thanks him. He warns them not to go down this path. He reminds them he tried to stop the great machine to stop the deaths of humankind. He discovered it was impossible and more humans died because of his actions. He will live with the guilt. He considered punishing himself and not purge the paintrack of Thanos’ torture from his mind, but realized such actions help nobody. This has broken his heart and changed his future. What they plan bears far greater risks. He warns them not to play so lightly with their souls and leaves through a teleportation gate.

The two priests silently look at each other. Thoughts? Ajak says. Looking at the captured Mr. Sinister hidden in another room Makkari signs it’s a good thing they didn’t introduce Phastos to their guest.

Phastos has joined his fellow outcast Eternals in Lemuria, where he begins working on a slab of stone. Kro remarks to Thena that he imagines Phastos blames himself for Thanos coming here to find him, but he is working too hard. He has always been like this, Thena sighs. People think that being the celestial smith is his power. “Working too hard” is his power. He knows the price the Deviants all paid, when they gave their group shelter, when they needed it most. He will not forget.

Kro reminds her that, when everything is said and done, they are still different people. They come across the ruined leftovers of the sculpture Thena’s dead Deviant lover Tolau made of the two of them, which was then melted by Thanos. Kro muses Tolau would like being remembered. He thinks the work speaks of the awfulness of their people. Thena remarks, Thanos thought of his destruction as a critique, but he’s a collaborator. Tolau’s piece spoke to what he felt is the best of them, and the sadness in there can only be temporary. Thanos only underlined Tolau’s point and his monstrous spirit made clear the monstrousness of the Eternals. He is absolutely one of them. People will look at the statue and not just see the pretty surface of the Eternals, but what lies within. It speaks of what it is to be Deviant in a world of Eternals.

Kro gently observes, she reminds him of why it is so easy to fall in love with her. She reminds him she is mourning as should he as leader of the Deviants. She asks what is between him and Sersi. Kro laughs that Sersi would eat him alive.

Speak of the devil, Sersi shows up behind him. Kro smoothly adds he didn’t say he wouldn’t like being eaten alive.

Sersi reveals they learned a lot when Ajak talked to the Celestial. They secured their plans for the Deviants. Thena adds they will work on a cure or treatment for excess deviation and now Kro also knows the truth: The Deviants are the midwives of all that is wondrous in the world. How will he tell his people?

Kro admits, it’s tricky: if he gives his people too much pride, they will want to go to war. Still, their worst actions have mainly been born of a feeling of shame compared to the Eternals… He kneels down next to a monstrous Deviant corpse. “Midwives of all that is wondrous” he quotes. They were the important ones all along. Well, don’t they feel blessed?

Still mocking himself, Sersi observes. Less than she thinks, he retorts. The Deviants are trapped as a people. Individually they are free. They are mortal and get that luxury. He feels sorry for the Eternals. He can imagine a world where the Deviants’ curse is cured. He cannot imagine one where the Eternals are free. They’ll see, Sersi replies evasively. Maybe they really can learn from mortals. He warns her to be careful what she wishes for. Learn everything from a mortal and, he suspects, you end up as a mortal. Does she want to die? Not particularly. But it would be delightful to find a new way to live.

On a viewscreen Prime Eternal Druig watches some of the mutants on Krakoa. Very healthy, very alive and full of vim and vigor. Can they do something about that? he asks the scientist Domo who is working on the finishing touches of the planned attack. He asks why they are annihilating a subspecies today. Druig replies, the Deviants have acted as the genetic carriers for most of the strange on Earth. Their genes are everywhere. However, they are particularly focused in these mutants. Deviants by another name. “Correct Excess Deviation” he quotes the Third Principle. The mutants are on Mars. They are immortal – that’s excess enough for him.

What he doesn’t say is that this is mere politics to unite the Eternals behind him. He watches as Domo uses the teleportation nodes to send the antimatter bomb toward Krakoa. Druig suggests a celebratory lunch in a Vancouver diner afterwards.

A moment later, both of them are overcome with pain and they bleed from their orifices as they repeat the phrase “Protect the Machine.” Druig orders Domo to recover the bomb. He complies and turns it off. The pain over, Druig asks why this triggered the Principles. Domo speculates that the sentient island Krakoa is part of the Machine in some fundamental way. They cannot simply annihilate it.

The Machine silently agrees. Long story. Krakoa is a great guy.

Domo apologizes and asks if he should look for another method to kill the mutants. Dejected, Druig replies, if you want to commit genocide, he should have gone straight to the expert.

A little later in the Exclusion, he talks to his imprisoned grandfather, Uranos the Undying, one of the most dangerous Eternals to exist. Druig has a proposition. Not even a thousand years on the throne, Uranos tuts, and already so desperate….

Characters Involved: 

Ikaris, Kingo Sunen, Phastos, Sersi, Sprite, Thena (renegade Eternals)
Ajak, Makkari (Eternal priests)
The Machine that is Earth

Kro (leader of the Deviants)
Other Deviants

Beast, Gambit, Jean Grey, Magik, Nightcrawler, Wolverine (X-Men)
Captain America, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, Namor Avengers)

Druig, Domo
Uranos the Undying

Story Notes: 

The story follows Eternals (5th series) #1-12 and Free Comic book Day 2022: Judgment Day. It also serves as prologue to the A.X.E. Judgment Day limited series and crossover. The next issue will be A.X.E. Judgment Day #1.

When Thanos was Prime Eternal, he led an attack on Lemuria.

The Eternals’ secret is that each time an Eternal is resurrected, it costs the lifeforce of a human or Deviant.

The identity of Excluded E will be revealed in A.X.E. Judgment Day #3.

Mr. Sinister took control of the Dreaming Celestial in Uncanny X-Men (3rd series) #3. He was abducted in Immortal X-Men #4.

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