A.X.E.: X-Men #1

Issue Date: 
November 2022
Story Title: 

Kieron Gillen (writer), Francesco Mobili (artist), Frank Martin (color), VC’s Clayton Cowles (letterer), Nic Klein (cover artist), Salvador Larocca and Edgar Delgado (cover variant), Jay Bowen (design), Martin Biro (assistant editor), Annalisa Bissa (associate editor), Tom Brevoort (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 small group of heroes, Eternals and Mr. Sinister makes their way throughout the body of the Celestial, trying to get to the top. In the way is an out-of-control miniature sun in the energy controlling facility. Jean Grey uses her telekinesis to part the sun and shield the others from it while they make their way through. The Progenitor chooses that moment to test her. First, she finds herself at Xaviers school, witnessing a Danger Room session that shows Dark Phoenix killing her friends. Then she is back at the Quiet Council, but unable to protest or act as the Council decides to sacrifice Iceland. Mr. Sinister hacks the test, allowing he and Wolverine to enter. The Progenitor uses them as character witnesses and even Sinister admits that Jean is unique. The Progenitor addresses Jean, considering her very much a being on its level. But it cannot get over how she – or a version of her – destroyed a world for no good reason at all. She protests how she has been making up for it but, considering the fate of D’Bari, the Progenitor fails her. Jean is incandescent with rage at the Celestial’s hypocrisy and vows to destroy it.

Full Summary: 

Several heroes are inside the Progenitor, trying to make their way to its core to destroy it. Jean Grey tries to scan the outside to see how the rest of the world is faring. She grimly informs the others that she sees nothing good. Any messages from Steve? Eros? Kurt? Sersi asks. Right now, she’d accept an “Hey, how’s it going?” from Uranos. Jean tells her she can only receive images. The weight of the Progenitor’s consciousness warps everything. It’s a black hole. Nothing gets out. It’s like nothing else, maybe if she pushed…

The Eternal priest Ajak, who is leading, the way lectures her that sailing on the waves of a god’s mind is both blasphemous and suicidal.

Sersi pronounces her fear that their friends are all dead. That it may all be over. Iron Man points out that the Celestial is still testing them, so… they can save them! Maybe even if they are gone, they can save them! A creature with this power could rewind the clock. Bring them back! He muses that bringing back the dead is how this all started. It’s how this should end!

Mr. Sinister opines that, if they on Krakoa can do it with five sterling young mutants, a prematurely bald psychic with a terrible prying problem and a little genetic know-how from you-know-who, a cosmic god certainly could. That said, if they could get to the controls of the cosmic god, they could do lots of things…

Makkari swiftly grabs his throat. Unconvincingly, Sinister states that he stole one Celestial’s power before and it ended very badly for him. He’s not going to make that mistake again. He’s all about making brand-new exciting mistakes! That’s the scientific method, friends!

Ajak agrees with Stark. Maybe their god can still be great. Stark continues they will find a way past all the antibodies, and they’ll find out… Wolverine calls him an addict on a hope high, and he is glad one of them is.

They continue on their way. They reach a hall and Jean asks if it is the same soul capacitor as last time. Sersi informs her it is not. She recognizes the place. It’s warped but she and Namor had a bath here. They had a delightful time. This visit? Decidedly less so.

Some antibodies attack again. While they fight, Iron Man announces the sauna is at the base of the Celestial. They need to get to the top. Sinister suggests the energy-monitoring facility at the base of its stave. Get there and they’ll get to the top in a jiffy. Ajak criticizes his terminology but agrees it is the best route. She leads the way.

Makkari warns the air is heating and soon they see the problem. The energy-monitoring facility is out of control. They need to pass on a narrow crossing, over which hangs a miniature burning sun. There is no other way, Ajak predicts. They need a miracle!

Jean walks ahead and creates a forcefield around herself pushing the flames aside, like Moses parting the Red Sea. She can do “miracle,” she quips.

They are beset by antibodies again, while Jean keeps on holding up the forefield. Is she okay? Wolverine asks. She tells them to get a move on. Ajak and Sinister are the first to cross. Suddenly, Jean screams in pain. Wolverine worries about her, while Sinister worries about her losing concentration. Jean assures him that, while she was hit by a psychic wave, she can handle it.

Suddenly, her mind finds itself elsewhere. She is standing outside the X-mansion dressed as she was when she first joined the X-Men. Xavier – really the Progenitor – welcomes her. She joins them on a day of testing. Let’s hope anyone survives the experience.

They join the other original X-Men. “Xavier” explains she is just in time for a training sequence and orders Cyclops to run the D’bari program. He tells Jean to sit this one out and take notes.

The four male X-Men fight Dark Phoenix and are killed one-by-one. “Xavier” turns to Jean and tells her he taught her so much. She was always the best, top of the class. He has blamed himself for her failure, but it is really her fault, isn’t it? No! she screams in horror.

Jean is still holding apart the sun. The others are fighting antibodies and Wolverine defends her. Doesn’t he get it? she shouts, she has been a hero ever since. She’s a hero!

Is it a test? Iron Man asks. He urges her she has to pass. Wolverine tells him to knock it off. Don’t pressure her. Sersi asks if they can help her. Their telepathy is nothing compared to hers, but… Jean lashes out telekinetically and screams. She announces she’s got this, then her mind is swept away again.

Suddenly, she is sitting at the Quiet Council. She is in her old seat, between Storm and Nightcrawler.

Emma Frost, in the center, asks if they are going to target the Celestial’s self-destruct. If they succeed, it will almost certainly kill untold oodles of distinctly unfashionably dressed humans, but perhaps it is still a worthwhile use of their time. Of course, they won’t tell the foot soldiers. No need for the little people to know. She asks any objectors to raise their hands. Jean finds her hands are nailed to the slab in front of her. Motion passes, Emma announces. To war. Let the humans burn!

Jean protests that she left the council because she wanted to do the right thing. Xavier / the Progenitor points out, if she’d stayed, she could have helped save the world. What’s more important to her: Being a “hero” or actually making a difference?

Suddenly, Wolverine appears from behind and impales “Xavier” through the chest. He’ll give him this: he’s got Chuck’s patronization nailed! What is he doing here? Jean demands. He inserted them both, Mr. Sinister explains. Logan’s power of love teamed up with his power of claws. Big metaphorical stabby claws!

While he attacks the rest of the Council with guns drawn, Sinister adds his guns are a metaphor for – oh, he doesn’t know. His resentment? Unresolved anger issues?

Logan frees Jean’s hands and she announces she hates these mind games!

Reality again:
He loves mind games, Sinister announces and dares the Celestial to play a midgame with him. Jean shouts she doesn’t need his help and telekinetically pushes both of them away. Yes, she is Jean Grey, highly omega, Sinister mocks. All the Greek letters, one after another in a big ole pile.

Jean ignores him and tells Wolverine he can’t help her either. She is going into the mind of a god and this isn’t his kind of fight. The risk is too high… As long as she is involved, the risk doesn’t matter, he replies simply.

Jean searches for psychic contact with the Progenitor. He wants to judge her? Let’s get this over with… She’ll come to him.

The astral plane:
What does it want? Jean demands. Understanding. Perspective, the Celestial replies. She is difficult. He summons Wolverine and Mr. Sinister as character witnesses and instructs them to be honest.

Sinister reveals he cloned Jean Grey. And he couldn’t clone Jean Grey. He made something else several times. Some better than others but none – annoyingly – better than her. He admits she is unique. That has a certain value. He is disgusted by his own honesty.

Wolverine unsheathes his claws and tells the Progenitor someone like it doesn’t get to judge someone like her.

Enough! the Progenitor orders and they disappear. They aren’t harmed yet, it tells Jean. Their insights help. One who loves her and one who envies her. It thinks it understands now. At least enough. It met her husband. He implied the Progenitor should be scared of her. A man who loves her thinks a Celestial should be scared of her. He is married to something that on a fundamental level petrifies him, it tells a horrified Jean. Such bravery. Of course, it passed him. He sleeps in the lair of a red dragon… and it thinks he is right. It thinks Jean is like it. And for all the love she shares and provokes, that is the part it cannot get past. Yes, the Progenitor is destroying a world, but she destroyed a world for no reason at all.

Jean protests Dark Phoenix wasn’t her, claiming it’s complicated. She adds she has been trying to make up ever since. The Progenitor agrees: sometimes she is a saint. Bot other times she is a violent bully. And above all, once she destroyed a world.

And she is going to destroy it! she shouts and lashes out with her psychic power. Once again, she retorts to violence, the Progenitor announces unimpressed. Jean asks it to listen. Last month alone, she went to a casino where several worlds’ fates were being wagered. She saved untold number of worlds. If they are keeping score, she is in the black!

She is horrified when the Progenitor points out that her friends would have saved those worlds without her. And they have not burnt any. When does she get to make up for it? Jean cries. The Progenitor announces, she can never make up for it. She is the Phoenix. Now and forever.

The flames surrounding her turn into the dead D’bari, who all turn their thumbs down. She fails.

The others are currently safe. Iron Man hopefully asks Jean how it went. She cries and admits she failed. Iron Man swears. Wolverine shouts at him. He has no idea what she’s been through! Ajak agrees. Jean was protecting them from the energy plasma while debating with Ajak’s god. Pass or fail, she is a significant being and deserves respect. Does she? Jean cries. Whatever she does, it is never enough!

Wolverine tells her a god who passes him and fails her is no god at all. Anything it tells her is wrong. It is wrong about her and she is wrong if she listens to a damn word it says. She hugs him gratefully.

They get attacked by another crowd of antibodies. Jean blasts them apart. She is incandescent with rage The Progenitor says destroying a world is unforgivable while doing this? She promises to annihilate the hypocrite.

She seems a little bit out of sorts, Sersi observes and asks Wolverine if there is anything they can do. He suggests to stay out of her way and let her work it out. She was always Chuck’s star pupil. She isn’t used to failing tests…

Characters Involved: 

Iron Man (Avenger)
Jean Grey, Wolverine (X-Men)
Mr. Sinister (Quiet Council)
Ajak, Makkari, Sersi (Eternals)


In the Progenitor’s illusions:
Professor X / the Progenitor
Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman (original X-Men)

Colossus, Destiny, Emma Frost, Exodus, Kate Pryde, Mystique, Professor X, Sebastian Shaw (Quiet Council)

Story Notes: 

The story follows A.X.E: Avengers #5 and is continued A.X.E: Eternals.

Stealing a celestial power ending badly for Sinister: He stole the Dreaming Celestial’s power in Uncanny X-Men (2nd series) #1-3, but it only ended badly, because the Phoenix five eventually kicked his ass. [Uncanny X-Men (2nd series) #15-16]

The Progenitor passed Cyclops in X-Men (6th series) #14.

Jean helped save several worlds in X-Men (6th series) #12.

Sinister failing to clone Jean several times: His first attempt – Madelyne Pryor – didn’t even gain consciousness, until a part of the Phoenix force entered her.

FAIL. Jean Grey

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