Note: Spoilders for A.X.E. Judgment Day below
From July through November 2022, Kieron Gillen, Valerio Schiti, and collaborators held the Marvel Universe up to the scathing judgment of a baby Celestial, and dozens of the most popular heroes barely made it out intact. A.X.E.: Judgment Day is an incredibly effective Marvel event, blending present-day continuity of X-Men and Eternals (with an Avengers appetizer!) into a memorable, Infinity Gauntlet Esque, reflection on the value of humanity and worthy gods.
Of course, like any good Universe-wide crossover, Judgment Day promises substantial ramifications for Marvel Comics moving forward. Now that the Progenitor's thumb is decidedly in the rear-view, what does Judgment Day mean for Marvel moving forward, and where is the Universe heading in 2023?
Kieron Gillen and Esad Ribic's revamp of the Eternals was so successful it created space for an event centered around the oft-overlooked Jack Kirby creation. The event is so Eternals-heavy that a majority of the Omega issue coda is dedicated to the ramifications of their actions and the world's newfound awareness of their greatest secret: That when an Eternal dies, it costs a human life to see them resurrected via The Machine.
The revelation sets the stage for a Marvel Universe where Eternals are feared and hated (don't be jealous X-Men!), with a faction including Ikaris, Phastos, and Makkari seeking to atone for the crimes of their people. It's classic Marvel-Universe guilt, and reimagines a Marvel with Eternals among us instead of isolated on Olympia.
The major players on the Eternals see major fallout as well, with the death of Sersi, the exclusion of Druig (he defeated Thanos, but manufacturing a war with the mutants of Krakoa set him up for failure), the return of Zuras as Eternal-Prime, and the elevation of Ajak to a living Celestial.
Likewise, through Judgment Day, Starfox (the brother of Thanos) returned to Eternals society, and alludes to freeing his parents (Eros and Sui-San) from exclusion and restoring society on Titan. The new Eternal Pope-Minister of Change may have big plans for Titan, but restoration of his homeworld should give readers pause: Thanos may be missing, but he's never met a Titan he couldn't raze.
Human and Mutant Unity
Tensions are high between mutants and humans, as the secret that mutants have a means of resurrection was outed by ace reporter Ben Urich earlier in 2022. This searing division is eloquently portrayed throughout Judgment Day, but a break occurs when mutant mandates to keep resurrection to mutantkind are broken in order to resurrect Captain America (complete with his shield!) and turn the tide in the fight against the Progenitor.
With this confirmation that Krakoa could in fact resurrect humans if desired, Jean Grey announced the Phoenix Foundation, for resurrecting a segment of humans considered 'deserving' or in need. It's a push toward improved PR for Krakoa amongst the humans of planet Earth, a vital component of the ongoing Cold War with Orchis, the defenders of humanity.
Given the 2023 Free Comic Book Day teaser for Avengers/X-Men, and a cover featuring Captain America and mutants, this is all likely to push even further with the announcement of a new Unity Squad. The Unity Avengers debuted in Uncanny Avengers (2012), with a lineup of humans and mutants in the wake of the Avengers vs. X-Men war. The other possibility is that Krakoa resurrected Cap because he's secretly a mutant, and this Avengers squad is *all* mutants, but that feels like a longshot (not the cool mullet kind either).
X Marks the Center
Speaking of mutant crossovers, in 2023 we can fully expect to see the Marvel Universe move more and more towards a core narrative with the X-Men and Krakoa firmly at the center. The shared universe always benefits from the storytelling momentum of a primary driver, and since 2019 that's clearly been the post-House of X/Powers of X status of mutantkind. Judgment Day escalates this direction, putting global sentiment towards Krakoa on display, and ending with a clear reveal that they were the victimized party in their war with the Eternals.
There are already a lot of upcoming Marvel stories to support this movement, from Spider-Man and Venom crossing over with Madelyne Pryor's Limbo in Dark Web to the Kelly Thompson Captain Marvel run crossing over with the Gerry Duggan written X-Men to the aforementioned Unity Squad Avengers in the Free Comic Book Day teaser. The whole of the Marvel Universe now ebbs and flows with the focus of X-Men comics, and Judgment Day cemented that.
Mutant Mars Mayhem
Although Krakoa was assaulted by Eternal forces (namely The Hex), and public awareness and accessibility towards resurrection shifted dramatically, the real Judgment Day fallout was felt on Planet Arakko (formerly Mars). The forces of Uranos (Thanos' grandfather... of sorts) devastated the mutant planet and capital of the Sol System. The onslaught (no, not that Onslaught), threw Arakko's Great Ring leadership into disarray, with the reveal of the secret Midnight Council (which includes Sunspot as a member!) and the resignation of Isca the Unbeaten, turned traitor once again. Most recognizably for long-time readers, though, the assault also ultimately resulted in the death of Magneto.
Magneto's sacrifice - he's forsworn resurrection through commitments to the culture of Arakko - will be felt tremendously as X-Men comics move towards a Fall of X event later in 2023. As penance for their war crimes, Zuras of the Eternals offers Arakko access to one hour of Uranos' armory (see also: mass devastation), which will definitely come into play next time Arakko needs to destroy a threat. Keep this one in mind when Orchis comes knocking…
Everything is Sinister
Given the impending Sins of Sinister event, Mister Sinister's involvement through Judgment Day is particularly compelling. Early in the event, Ajak and Makkari kidnap Sinister and use his previous dalliances in manipulating Celestial technology (from writer Kieron Gillen's 2011 run on Uncanny X-Men) to manufacture their own Celestial, the Progenitor. Although Sinister appears largely at their mercy, readers of Immortal X-Men know that the character is currently cloning copies of Moira X, and using her mutant ability to relive lives with knowledge of the past experience. Sinister's experiences are simply additional data to funnel back to his consciousness upon resetting the timeline.
Except when Sinister tries to do just that after the Progenitor appears ready to wipe out all of Earth, the reset won't work! Likewise, although we see the Progenitor judge everyone in the Marvel Universe from Doctor Doom to Hawkeye to non-licensed IP, Sinister is never judged (and is annoyed at the fact!). This teases an intriguing mystery, and tells us Sinister is nowhere as in control as he likes to think he is. It all sets the stage for a Sins of Sinister alternate reality, which promises a delightfully twisted riff on the Marvel Universe in early 2023.
Is DC Universe Infinite Ultra a game-changer for comics streaming platforms?