A.X.E.: Judgment Day is Marvel’s 2022 summer event, bringing the Avengers and X-Men together in a battle against the Eternals. With its second issue out today, the event proves this week, like any good story, it’s not the surface layer of the story that makes it genuinely exceptional but its layers. After the first issue set up the confrontation, it’s safe to say Kieron Gillen and Valerio Schiti have prepared a comic event that will have you gasping for breath in the best of ways.
A quick look at the character lineup for this issue will reveal a robust cast of X-Men, Avengers, Celestials, and…civilians? It’s a surprise for sure, and a layer to the story you may be reluctant to dive into, but by the end of the issue will be dying to know what Gillen has planned. Those civilians open the issue with pink captions not unlike those spoken by The Great Machine detailing their lives. The issue establishes its first layer through these characters’ mundane and likely familiar lives.
The story quickly cuts into action as Exodus and Jean Grey fight a Celestial. Attacked directly on Krakoa, the X-Men are fighting an impossible battle with time running out. That’s the second layer.
Meanwhile, Iron Man and Mr. Sinister–among others–hatch a plan to bring Avengers Mountain back to life. Avengers Mountain is of course, a dead Celestial, and it’s an incredible idea that readers get to witness in real-time throughout this issue. That’s the third layer.
There is more to the story than that, especially the interpersonal character stories like Captain America and Cyclops having a moment or Mr. Sinister being a total creep. A lot is going on in this issue, but it’s never confusing or hard to keep track of the multiple layers at work. There’s so much story here that it feels bold as Gillen and Schiti don’t hold back. Heck, there’s even a quick cut to mutants being reborn as quickly as possible to fight the Celestial detailed in two panels that could have been an entire issue.
The balancing act of this issue is expertly drawn by Schiti, who continues to impress with detail and how many characters he can render per panel. Marte Gracia infuses every page with bright comic book goodness that we’ve come to expect from past events like X of Swords and Empyre. These artists may prove to be a top three duo of superhero comics artistry of all time. Time will tell, but their chances are looking good.
A big reason why Schiti is so damn good at these event books is that he’s capable of putting every hero under the sun into a fight scene and making them look cool or at least do something of importance in the story. That’s key since comic events have so little time to divvy out dialogue or give each character a vital role. Thor or Nighthawk may not have any lines, but they look fantastic for a moment, at least.
While the action excites and entertains, interpersonal relationships develop or devolve, plot progression excels, and the captions established in the opening scene build towards something quite satisfying. The many layers of this issue rotate and evolve on top of each other, making for an incredibly rewarding single-issue experience. And this is just one chapter in a larger story. That is something not often seen in serial stories or, for that matter, significant comic events.
All these layers and action-packed moments cover that the main villains, the bad Eternals, and some of the good guys–the good Eternals–are nowhere to be seen. We see them briefly, but this issue has no time to detail their plans or movements. Instead, we must wait another day for their inclusion in the larger story likely coming soon.
If you were on the fence, A.X.E.: Judgment Day #2 inspires with its layers of action and intrigue, delivering a comic all events should aspire to. You’ll be swept up in the forward-moving narrative and thrilled by the impressive art and action.
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