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Marvel's A.X.E.: Judgment Day #4 sets up the death of every character on Earth

Unpacking the game-changing cliffhanger in A.X.E.: Judgment Day #4

A.X.E.: Judgment Day #4
Image credit: Marvel Comics

Marvel’s A.X.E.: Judgment Day event continues today with the release of A.X.E. Judgment Day #4, and the ending was a game-changer.

Spoilers ahead for September 13's A.X.E. Judgment Day #4.
After taking 24 hours to ponder the fate of the world, the Celestial known as Progenitor has made his final judgment, sentencing humanity to extinction. Could this be the end of the human race in the Marvel Universe?

What is A.X.E.: Judgment Day?

A.X.E.: Judgment Day #4
Image credit: Marvel Comics

A.X.E.: Judgement Day is Marvel’s latest crossover event. The storyline features an intense war between the godlike Eternals and the mutants of Earth. Druig, who is currently the Prime Eternal, decided that mutants were a genetic mistake that must be eliminated. Druig attacked the mutant nation Krakoa, which resulted in all-out war.

The Avengers and the X-Men have been trying to end the conflict with the help of a faction of Eternals who reject Druig’s violent vision. Unfortunately their intervention has inadvertently made things worse. Recently the Avengers have used the deceased body of a Celestial named Progenitor as their base. In order to defeat Druig, the Avengers, the X-Men, and the Eternals revive Progenitor, hoping the powerful Celestial could end the war.

Instead Progenitor is disgusted by the way humanity has treated Earth, and has declared that he will pass judgment on them in 24 hours. If humanity can’t measure up to Progenitor’s judgment, he will destroy the world.

What happened in A.X.E.: Judgment Day #4?

A.X.E.: Judgment Day #4
Image credit: Marvel Comics
Progenitor promised to give the world 24 hours before he would make his final judgment, and A.X.E.: Judgment Day #4 (written by Kieron Gillen and penciled by Valerio Schiti) shows us how the world reacts to this chilling decree. As you can imagine, humanity panics. Captain America tries in vain to calm people in the streets, but the Avenger is no match for the hysteria happening around him.

The issue is narrated by Progenitor, who observes various heroes and villains, deciding if they’re worthy or not. Progenitor’s standards are high and unforgiving. New York Mayor Luke Cage fails, Ms. Marvel passes, Charles Xavier fails, and Doctor Doom passes.

As the 24-hour countdown continues, the war between the mutants and Celestials rages on, with Druig taking advantage of the chaos. Magneto battles the powerful Eternal Uranos, and it doesn’t go well for him. The battle takes a lot out of Magneto, who appears to succumb to his injuries. Time will tell if this is the end for Magneto or merely a setback.

A.X.E.: Judgment Day #4
Image credit: Marvel Comics

The issue ends with Progenitor issuing his final judgment, sentencing humanity to extinction. Captain America watches in horror as the Eternal begins slaughtering the crowd around him. All the panicked people Cap promised to save turn to skeletons before his eyes. The only thing that saved Cap was his vibranium shield, but even that was only a temporary reprieve. The final panel is a shot of Cap saying “We’re going to die,” as his face is filled with sheer horror.

Will everyone in the Marvel Universe die?

With Progenitor executing all of mankind, could this be the end of the Marvel Universe? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean this moment won’t have deep consequences. Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #11 (1984) ended with Doctor Doom killing every Marvel hero on Battleworld, but they returned the next issue. Hawkeye was killed during the 2004 storyline Avengers Disassembled', but was revived during the 2005 event House of M. The point is, there is precedent for heroes dying in storylines like this, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be back.

However, even if we can bank on the survival of Marvel’s most popular heroes, that doesn’t mean we should ignore Progenitor’s attempt at genocide. Captain America might be safe, but everyone in the crowd around him has been turned into a skeleton. They probably won’t be coming back. Remember, even if the heroes can come back from death, that doesn’t mean their supporting characters will.

Is it possible that the Avengers loved ones will become victims of Progenitor’s judgment. Even if popular heroes like Spider-Man or Ms. Marvel are safe, supporting characters like Peter Parker’s friend Randy Robertson, or Kamala Khan’s brother Aamir could become victims of Progenitor’s judgment. Those are just two random examples. Killing a popular supporting character is an effective way to raise the stakes, giving a crossover event some weight.

A.X.E.: Judgment Day #4
Image credit: Marvel Comics

Even if all the deaths wind up being nameless bystanders, the consequences of Progenitor’s judgment could still change the Marvel Universe. If you’ve been watching various projects in the Marvel Cinematic Universe then you know how traumatic it was for Earth to lose half the population. Even though Hulk brought them back in Avengers: Endgame, humanity is still coming to grips with their trauma from the event.

Obviously the movies and comics are different mediums, and will deal with things in their own way, but the comparison seems relevant here. With Progenitor vaporizing people, there’s no telling how big his death toll will be before he’s stopped. How will the survivors react? Will this change the way they view Marvel’s heroes? Time will tell, but first the heroes will need to stop Progenitor first. The caption for the next issue blurb simply says “It’s too late,” which isn’t very encouraging.

A.X.E.: Judgment Day #4 is on sale now, and A.X.E.: Judgment Day #5 hits the stands on September 21.

Jonesing for more? Make sure you've read all our recommended best Marvel Comics stories.

Joshua Lapin-Bertone

Joshua Lapin-Bertone: Joshua is a pop culture writer specializing in comic book media. His work has appeared on the official DC Comics website, the DC Universe subscription service, HBO Max promotional videos, the Batman Universe fansite, and more. In between traveling around the country to cover various comic conventions, Joshua resides in Florida where he binges superhero television and reads obscure comics from yesteryear.


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