As we await the final chapter of A.X.E.: Judgment Day, Kieron Gillen aims to focus on a small group of heroes inside the Celestial that wishes to judge all of Earth. Over three issues–started already with Tony Stark–the Celestial will judge those inside him that aim to turn him off, kill him, or die trying. Now it’s Jean Grey’s turn, X-Men and hero in her own right who has done terrible things as Phoenix, but surely the Celestial won’t use that against her, right?
Knowing the general gist of how things are playing out, A.X.E.: X-Men #1 opens with our heroes further navigating the Celestial and encountering threats. Iron Man is incredibly hopeful; he just passed its test, but the others aren’t so cheery. Many heroes have died and don’t know if their plans will work. As the group recaps what’s going on or their general thoughts, a significant threat undertakes them, and Jean saves them all. That’s when the Celestial strikes.
Much of this issue occurs in Jean Grey’s head as she is judged by being forced to relive moments in her life. Gillen and artist Francesco Mobili show us how Jean was passed up for the first X-Men team or how the team fought her after she became the Dark Phoenix. The idea is postulated that she isn’t a hero and hasn’t made a difference over the years, and it’s cool to see Jean fight back and prove herself. Given how the Celestial doesn’t seem to play very reasonably, it’s an uphill battle for her. Thankfully she has Wolverine by her side, who roots for her and defends her even when characters like Iron Man say things off hand.
I wondered what it all means once we reach the end of the story. The last issue gave the heroes hope, but here it’s not so clear. Jean Grey will never give up, though, and that’s made very clear – no matter the fact that she killed billions as the Dark Phoenix, she will not relent. It doesn’t help that the issue feels a touch padded out with the setup pages before Jean’s flashbacks.
Mobili draws a great Jean Grey, with the character showing off impressive powers throughout the issue. The flashbacks to earlier times in her life are colored in a slightly dreamy way by Frank Martin that sets them apart. Mr. Sinister and Wolverine stand out from the bunch, getting to do some slashing and shooting while also serving as essential figures for Jean’s judgment. There’s a killer panel of Jean letting loose her powers that should have fans roaring for more.
A.X.E.: X-Men #1 will make you curious and want more from this event in a good way. While it’s unclear what this issue accomplishes for the bigger picture, it’s a fascinating deeper look at the complexities of Jean Grey and the burden she is always carrying. Whether or not you agree with the Celestial’s judgment, it’s safe to say Jean Grey is made stronger for the events of this issue.
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