No, you’re not confused, A.X.E.: Judgment Day #4 came out last week, and only one week later, we’ve got A.X.E.: Judgment Day #5! It’s a surprise, but given the cliffhanger of the latest issue, one can see a major reveal dictating a lot of tie-in story potential. Can writer Kieron Gillen and artist Valerio Schiti continue to deliver up until that cliffhanger, though? Let me count the ways why A.X.E.: Judgment Day #5 rocks.
A.X.E.: Judgment Day #5 opens with the Celestial judge known as Progenitor giving everyone in the world a thumbs down. They don’t pass, and thus they must be destroyed. The character’s internal monologue takes on the central focus throughout this issue as Gillen details its observations of humans and superheroes alike. The idea of judging everyone based on its own seemingly arbitrary rules is a frightening one.
Things get even more frightening when the heroes take the fight to Progenitor. Not only because Schiti and color artist Marte Gracia show our favorite heroes’ flesh burning off and dying horribly, but because Gillen details how the Progenitor has no sympathy. He hauntingly points out he’s being creative with the killings because “to be a god is to be creative.” Gillen is certainly not going for horror, but I was immediately reminded of Wes Craven’s excellent Next Testament series, which postulated what would happen if god did return, and he was a nasty awful sadist. That idea carries through here in a delightfully scary and high-stakes sequence.
That sequence extends to anyone trying to escape, increasing the situation’s stakes. With many events, heroes and humans only need to leave a country or the world, but here we learn Progenitor will not allow anyone from Earth to exist due to its judgment. Harsh, man.
Before and after the big fight with every hero attacking the Celestial–good on the creators to get Doop in there–there’s some swell character writing. Captain America opens the book where we left off as he’s defeated spiritually. He can’t inspire the people who have resorted to violence and looting. Still, some inspire him, and Cap never loses the desire to inspire others, either. It’s a heartfelt scene that pays off later and shows Captain America’s superpower truly inspires others.
Narratively speaking, the humans that the Celestial has been checking in on take a back seat in this issue. They do appear on page two, but it seems their place in the story and their reflections on the world aren’t needed. Likely there wasn’t enough room for them, but losing them entirely for most of the issue loses their perspective on things.
In general, the book is tightly written and drawn. Any given panel can have three, five, or in some cases, over 20 characters. When characters speak, it means something with little to no fluff. Given all the moving parts, it’s impressive how easy this event is to follow. Could the big fight use a few more pages to show off more fighting? Maybe; it does go by fast, but the effect is made, and it works to push the story forward.
If you want action, A.X.E.: Judgment Day #5 has it in droves. The heroes take the fight to the Celestial in an issue that raises the stakes more than you can know. If a Marvel event is supposed to change how we think and see characters, A.X.E.: Judgment Day #5 does it tenfold.
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