Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Guiu Vilanova
Colors: Dijjo Lima
Design: Jay Bowen
Letters: VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover: Esad Ribić
Variant Cover: Leinil Francis Yu & Sunny Gho
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: August 17th, 2022
Mars is being decimated, Krakoa is facing destruction, and Tony Stark is building a Celestial. But what are the Eternals up to? Now we get a look behind the scenes and see what the Eternals are up to as mutants fight for their lives.
If you’re interested in this comic, series, related trades, or any of the others mentioned, then simply click on the title/link to snag a copy through Amazon as you read the A.X.E.: Death to the Mutants #1 Review.
A.X.E.: JUDGMENT DAY started with a bang. The event leaped off the page in a flurry of action and put the mutants of Krakoa in the crosshairs of an existential threat unlike any they’ve faced since the founding of their island nation. But with all that action there hasn’t been much space for the writers to expand on the behind-the-scenes hows and whys. That is where A.X.E.: DEATH TO THE MUTANTS #1 comes in.
Gillen explored Eternal society in A.X.E.: EVE OF JUDGMENT, establishing their status quo and revealing Druig’s motives behind his attack on the mutants. A.X.E.: DEATH TO THE MUTANTS #1 revisits the Eternals, showing off Druig’s side of his conflict with the mutants and Ikaris’s efforts to stop him. This is a necessary addition to the story that the main series, so far, has been too overflowing with action to fit in. In that way, A.X.E.: DEATH TO THE MUTANTS is an essential tie-in as opposed to an inconsequential add-on.
Easily the most welcome component of this issue is a further examination of the Eternals who aren’t going along with Druig’s war. The main series has given us a little of that via Sersi, but overall there hasn’t been much exploration of that side of the conflict since A.X.E.: EVE OF JUDGMENT. In A.X.E.: DEATH TO THE MUTANTS #1 Gillen fleshes this out and points toward a rebellion within the Eternals ranks in the middle of the larger conflict Druig has started. As A.X.E.: JUDGMENT DAY #2 reframed the story and widened the scope of its potential consequences, so too does this issue begin to reframe the story into one that’s also about the future of the Eternals society.
Helping to tell this story is the Machine That is Earth. Like in A.X.E.: EVE OF JUDGMENT, the Machine’s narration helps connect the dots between plot points and smooths the transition between the two Eternals factions The Machine’s slightly judgmental sense of humor remains, though in this issue it is less prominent as the Machine discusses matters of a more serious nature (not surprising since the conflict has begun). Once again, the Machine adds to the characters’ depth–something that is key given the number of Eternals involved and the difficulty of giving them all their due in this issue.
For as interesting as all of this is, though, A.X.E.: DEATH TO THE MUTANTS #1 does have one drawback: it’s very compressed. To be fair, this is probably an unavoidable problem. The mini-series isn’t long enough to really let the story breathe. It’s a lot of nuts and bolts action, and you can feel the too-urgent pace. If it wasn’t for Gillen providing compelling narration through the Machine, the issue would come across as very procedural.
A.X.E.: DEATH TO THE MUTANTS #1 is a somewhat mixed back visually. Villanova has a distinct style that makes the characters’ appearances very striking, largely through an unrelenting intensity. But most of that intensity comes through facial expressions that are almost constantly angry in appearance. The characters’ facial anatomy also slips from time to time, especially around their mouths. It is jarring enough when it happens that I often found myself fixated on the characters’ faces when the focus of the panel was something else entirely.
Dijjo Lima’s colors are, surprisingly, somewhat lackluster here. His previous work for Marvel has often been vibrant, but here he has gone for a more washed-out look. In fairness, this probably serves Villanova’s style better than going with brighter colors, but in many places, the characters feel lighter than they should, especially in panels where they’re using their powers which Lima brightens to an almost neon degree. Those moments are more visually stimulating which unfortunately draws attention to how subdued the rest of the issue is.
A.X.E.: DEATH TO THE MUTANTS #1 is an uneven issue both narratively and visually–sometimes distractingly so. But the one thing it isn’t is fluff. From the outset, this reads like an issue of consequence (something that is never a guarantee with event tie-ins). In a perfect world, this series would have a couple more issues to allow the story it’s telling to breathe (Druig especially could have benefitted with a little more space here). But for all its drawbacks, this is still an issue that deserves attention–not just because the series is shaping up to be an integral part of A.X.E.: JUDGMENT DAY, but because it is setting up a compelling story about the Eternals and dropping tantalizing hints about where they might be headed as this event goes on.