Marvel Comics' big event story for summer 2022 will be a three-way showdown between the Avengers, the Eternals, and the X-Men called Judgment Day (check out the trailer above). The publisher has been teasing Judgment Day for months, and hinting at a Marvel Universe and perhaps even a Marvel Cinematic Universe gamechanger.
According to Marvel, the Eternals will be learning more about their place in the universe, including a "devastating truth" about mutantkind which will lead them to target the recently-created mutant nation of Krakoa. The secret Marvel is referring to is, from hints given recently and years ago, that mutantkind is even more connected to the Eternals than we thought - they are, at least in the Eternals' beliefs, part of the Deviants race which are their life-long enemies.
The Eternals coming after the X-Men on Krakoa leads to an intervention from the Avengers, who hope to play mediators and stave off what Marvel calls "a potentially apocalyptic war."
In this brewing conflict, Marvel also teases a fourth force that will 'judge' the Marvel Universe. While not saying who it is, given Marvel describes this fourth force as "the greatest power they've ever come into contact with," it would seem to be the creators of the Eternals (and pretty much every superhuman from Earth) the Celestials.
Earlier this year Marvel released three teaser-y pieces of dialogue from the story that gave some clues to the upcoming conflict between the three groups.
All three of the teasers feature dialogue from prominent members of each of the Avengers, X-Men, and Eternals - and according to Marvel's press release that accompanied them, they're actual quotes from Judgment Day that hint at the plot of the story.
First, Tony Stark (Iron Man) of the Avengers says, "Speaking broadly, I'm pro-hubris. But… how on Earth do you think we're going to make a god in a few hours?"
Tony's quote may tie back to the Avengers' current headquarters Avengers Mountain, which is built inside the husk of the fallen Celestial Progenitor fused with a literal mountain - which is a sacred site for the Eternals that they don't appreciate being co-opted by the Avengers. Could the Avengers attempt to reanimate the Celestial Progenitor?
March 9's Eternals #10 features the Eternals on a 'breaking and entering' mission into Avengers Mountain with the intent to use it to communicate with the remaining, living Celestials on how to beat their current foe, Thanos. Perhaps it's there they'll find out the mutantkind "secret" that sets them on the warpath towards Judgment Day.
Then mutant precog Irene Adler, better known as the recently resurrected Destiny (who is a member of the Krakoan mutant leadership group, the Quiet Council), states "There will always be war. That's one thing we can always be sure of."
The mutantkind "secret" that Marvel refers to seems to be spelled out in the third quote, from the Eternals' Druig - revealing some animosity between him (and possibly his fellow Eternals) and the X-Men.
Druig says ominously, "For a million years, Earth has been protected from the Deviants. But we made a mistake… We missed some. The mutants."
In the Avengers/X-Men one-shot for Free Comic Book Day, the Eternals state that any creature with an "out of control mutation" is deviant, which could include mutantkind now that the X-Men have solved death on Krakoa. The resurrection protocols put in place make the mutants immortal, or possibly eternal, and if it's the latter, that makes them deviant.
If mutants are Deviants, it will have far-reaching implications for the Marvel Universe and a potentially huge impact on the MCU, we all have been speculating for years now how Marvel Studios will introduce mutants into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
You can check out all three of the original teasers here:
Marvel later doubled down in the 'mutants are Deviants' dynamic. In a trailer for Judgment Day released March 16 (see below) artwork from the series is interspersed with title cards providing exposition.
The Eternals sequence (which begins at 0:48 and runs through 1:07) reads:
"The Eternals have begun a brand new cycle of life ... as they continue their sworn mission ... to eliminate the Deviants ..."
And after some digital imagery suggesting computer code being rewritten, the title card reappears as "...to eliminate the Mutants."
Of course, in the great tradition of Marvel superhero crossovers, the Eternals believing mutants are Deviants could be a big misunderstanding that will put them in conflict at the beginning but that will be resolved when the superheroes unite against a true common foe at the end.
But the dynamic being real cannot be overlooked, and its potential underestimated.
As for the Avengers and X-Men, they have rarely needed much of a reason to fight each other - 2012's Avengers vs. X-Men even made their rivalry the centerpiece of the Marvel Universe for a time.
Judgment Day's creators - Kieron Gillen, Valerio Schiti, and Marte Gracia - have a deep history with the three Marvel franchises and one another. Gillen wrote the most recent Eternals ongoing series, and is currently writing the ongoing series Immortal X-Men. He also wrote a series delving into the aftermath of the last Avengers vs. X-Men event, called AvX: Consequences, and he co-wrote the Avengers/X-Men #1 one-shot from Free Comic Book Day 2022.
"There's a classic metaphor to describe the Marvel Universe - a toybox, which creators take toys out of, play with and put back. I get it, but it's never quite how I've seen it - I think 'play' in another way. I think of a music shop, with all these instruments with their different qualities suggesting different songs, different stories," Gillen says in the February 1 press release for Judgment Day.
"For all the Marvel instruments I've played, I've never written an event. Writing an event is something different. It's not like playing an instrument. It's having all the instruments in the Marvel music shop. That's not like writing a song. That's like writing a symphony."
Gillen also, of course, worked with Valerio Schiti on the series Journey Into Mystery and went on to work with others on major Marvel books such as Empyre, Avengers, Fantastic Four, and Inferno.
"It is great to have the opportunity to draw another Marvel event after Empyre," Schiti adds. "The difference is that last time I was just excited, but now I know how high the expectations are, so now I am both excited and a bit scared! Luckily for me, I have the great Kieron Gillen and Marte Gracia watching my back and together we can face any cosmic threat!"
Judgment Day could go down as one of the biggest Marvel events in some time - but how will it rank among our list of the best Marvel stories of all time?