14 weeks ago, A.X.E.: Judgment Day kicked off the Marvel summer event that saw massive death, self-reflection, and a major shift in Marvel Comics. Today, Kieron Gillen and Valerio Schiti’s new series closes the door on judgment with significant questions looming and the heroes rushing — as always — to save Earth and everyone as we know it. With doomsday hanging over the heroes as they live through a metaphor for our world, will they be judged fairly, or do they deserve to lose everything? That’s the question, and hopefully, anyone reading it will take it to heart!
This issue opens with Captain America saving a woman he’s been connecting with over the course of the event. The world is ending, and she seems to be taking it rather well, but Captain America never gives up on anyone. Soon they’re teleported to an Eternal city where the remaining humans await their fate. It’s telegraphed plainly that the Eternals have given the survivors a fighting chance here, even though we know their eternal lives require human sacrifice. It’s the big secret that has likely meant doomsday for everyone.
The human element in this series is not lost in this final chapter. The human characters who have thoroughly humanized and grounded this story get check-in, and it’s not going great for all of them. Giving readers their perspective shows the event is affecting little people like us. The fact that the creators give the non-powered Earthlings a part in the fight later on in the issue is a nice touch since they’ve been there from the start.
As far as the fight goes with the superheroes, most of the big moments happen inside the Celestial Progenitor. They’re trying to kill or turn off this godlike entity while at the same time it’s hurtling towards the Reality Loom. The superheroes have thoroughly slowed down their ability to kill us all, but once it hits the Reality Loom, everything ends.
Gillen has set something up here that works on multiple levels. The Progenitor is racing towards a doomsday button while the heroes try to figure out whether killing it is worth it if the side effect is doomsday. Meanwhile, characters are still reeling from their judgment, like Jean Grey, who wants revenge, or Iron Man, who has found some extra confidence and wants to think things through.
Then, with time of the essence, Sersi has had enough of the Progenitor and their ongoing monologuing taking the center stage. This is a great way to show Sersi’s personality while using her words rather than fists to help save everyone. This piece fits nicely with a moment for Jean with the Progenitor and a moment for Iron Man. One can see what each says builds off the other and leads to the story’s resolution. Dare I say it, punching and kicking isn’t the solution to a major Marvel event, and it’s entertaining while being satisfying. That’s a tricky thing to do with cape comics.
There are other layers to unpack in this issue, with major ramifications going forward. Aside from a major death, Gillen has shifted how people think about entire groups like the mutants and the Eternals. There’s also a death, a major character upgrade, and some resolution for the lower-tiered villains. All in all, it’s impressive how much progress transpires in this finale when most comic book event finales are fighting 90% of the time, and then death or some fallout promises some lasting change. Here, it’s more about impressions and how they’ve shifted which is potentially far more interesting.
It’s incredibly well done but not perfect. If you’re just reading the main event, you’ll be totally flummoxed by the Syne the Memotaur that plays a part in slowing down the Progenitor. The fight with the Hex lasts two pages, and while it gives the Progenitor some extra time to speak via captions, it’s a nonstarter conflict. This character played a much bigger part in the Death to the Mutants tie-in, and if you read that and had an investment in the character, you’ll feel disappointed. Another minor gripe is some awkward dialogue here or there. One example that threw me off was, “I should have always accepted your judgment, not its.” It’s only in two or three spots, but it was surprising for a big-two book.
Schiti draws another great issue with Ivan Fiorelli and Marte Gracia on colors. The last eight pages appear to be drawn by Fiorelli, who draws in a similarly clean style. That makes for a less jarring switch. The most impressive bits are two new character designs. One is straight out of twisted sci-fi, as the being inside the Progenitor is huge, lean, and has six eyes. Another character design is a good mix of godliness straight out of Greece with some other cultures and tech-futurism thrown in too. Scale is also well done in this issue, especially after Captain America saves his new friend and we see the crazy tall structures in the Eternal City.
A.X.E.: Judgment Day #6 delivers big time for fans of earned resolution, and the incredible trick of characters talking is as impactful as punching in a superhero comic. This event has always been about the ideas of things or the impression of an entire culture and has shifted global understanding. For an event-caliber story, that’s hugely impactful, and it’ll be interesting to see the ramifications of this event going forward.
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