Writer: Kieron Gillen
Art: Guiu Vilanova
Colors: Alex Guimarães
Design: Jay Bowen
Letters: VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover: Esad Ribić
Variant Cover: Humberto Ramos & Edgar Delgado
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: September 7th, 2022
Thumbs up or thumbs down? As the Eternal’s society continues to deteriorate, a whole lot of them face judgment. Who among them deserves to live? And who doesn’t?
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 #2 Review.
What would you say if forced to justify your life? In the face of no established criteria, what would you point to show that you’re deserving? These questions are at the heart of A.X.E.: JUDGMENT DAY. So far the various tie-in issues have danced around them, their writers finding clever ways to avoid dealing with the event’s central idea directly. Now, in A.X.E.: DEATH TO THE MUTANTS #2, we finally get an issue that doesn’t shy away from the central theme but instead engages with it head on.
A.X.E.: DEATH TO THE MUTANTS #2 continues to follow the war from the Eternals’ point of view. The cracks in their society widen. One Eternal goes so far as to tell the Progenitor to kill them all. Of the three groups involved in A.X.E.: JUDGMENT DAY, the Eternals are proving to be the most interesting because their existential struggle isn’t limited to just whether they live or die. If the Progenitor deems them collectively worthy of survival, what will their society look like afterward? It’s difficult to see how they will recover given the varied hard lines taken by Druig, Ajak, and Ikaris (to say nothing of the wide assortment of conflicting opinions among everyone else). Destroying a society to win a war is no victory yet that seems like the inevitable result.
The Deviants, on the other hand, are more united than ever, and in A.X.E.: DEATH TO THE MUTANTS #2 they’ve joined the fight on Krakoa with the mutants. This is an interesting unforeseen consequence: the two two types of beings that Druig’s Eternals want to destroy brought together in common cause. It’s also a bit of a reversal of what we saw in previous issues where Ikaris and his group of Eternals had allied with the X-Men.
I earlier noted that the arrangement between mutants and Eternals opposing Druig was one of convenience. From the look of things (especially in the wake of the mutants’ attempted attack on the Progenitor) that alliance has run its course. The Deviants, on the other hand, know what it is to be hated and hunted because of who and what they are. And after seeing them use the Krakoan gates we know there is a deeper connection between Deviants and mutants.
A.X.E.: DEATH TO THE MUTANTS #2, like the previous Eternals-centric issues, is narrated by the Machine that is Earth. On that front everything seems to be going much as the previous issues. Then the Progenitor reveals that it is aware of the Machine, that it can hear it. The Progenitor calls out the Machine’s behavior. It specifically points out that off kilter humor the Machine has when it’s describes to us what is happening.
Despite how much interesting A.X.E.: DEATH TO THE MUTANTS #2 is making the Eternals’ side of the conflict, though, there is a constant flaw: there’s no apparent criteria for who is and is not worthy. It’s not clear why the Progenitor judges people one way or the other (or holds judgment until later which makes little sense since we know it can get in people’s minds and put forth scenarios in order to draw a conclusion). To be fair, this problem isn’t unique to this issue; it’s plagued every tie-in. It’s simply more prominent here because most tie-ins have avoided tackling the idea directly.
That doesn’t forgive its deleterious effect on this story, though. By the end of the issue I had lost interest in the individual judgments. It would have been one thing if I knew why it was happening. But we’re only provided an explanation for Makari and Phastos (and the one for Phastos makes little sense since the Progenitor is basing it on the attempt to destroy it–something he doesn’t seem to approve of in the case of mutants).
I made an observation about the art in A.X.E.: DEATH TO THE MUTANTS #1 that holds true here as well: all of the Vilanova’s characters look angry all the time. In that way, for better or worse, the style is consistent. The characters’ facial anatomy is better, though. There are really only two moments where I found the characters’ depictions distracting. One is Vilanova’s presentation of Emma whose expressions completely lack the power and emotion that drive the character (instead seeming almost petulant and angry in defeat). The other is Starfox who in close up resembles an angry elf from the Elder Scrolls games.
The colors in this issue are more vibrant, no doubt reflecting the style of new color artist Alex Guimarães.
A.X.E.: DEATH TO THE MUTANTS #2 is a largely compelling issue when it is focused on the Eternals’ society, their internal conflicts, and their ages-old struggle with the Deviants. It continues the story thread that began in A.X.E.: EVE OF JUDGMENT, tracking the Eternals with a level of detail that isn’t present in any other series. Unfortunately its interaction with A.X.E.: JUDGMENT DAY’s overall story is where the issue falls down. I had no idea why the Progenitor judges the way it does (it feels totally random). By the end I had lost interest in that story thread. We know the Progenitor won’t destroy humanity. The compelling part of the story is the way people are judged and why. And that’s a question Gillen doesn’t answer in most cases.