Writers: Zeb Wells, Mike Carey, Craig Kyle, Chris Yost, and Matt Fraction
Artists: Ibraim Roberson, Esad Ribic, Terry and Rachel Dobson, Greg Land, Jay Leisten
Colours: Matt Milla, Matt Wilson, Frank Martin, Brad Anderson.
With this final issue of the Second Coming story, five years of X-Men plot threads come to a close. Was the pay off worth it though? Was the arrival of the mutant messiah back in the present day Marvel universe worth it thematically and for readers? Let’s take a look at the final issue, and how just how far we’ve come in the last 14 issues, spanning a variety of X-books.
“No more mutants.”
With a single phrase, Scarlet Witch all but erased the mutant population to merely a few hundred. Facing extinction, Marvel’s mutants fought to stay alive to preserve homo-superior for as long as possible. Even still, since the events of House of M, there were no mutant births across the globe. That is until a single girl was born to a family in Alaska. In Messiah Complex, we were introduced to a small baby who would grow to represent the hopes of the mutant race. Yet, she was many things to different people, and not all of them positive. Some viewed her as a messiah of the mutant race; someone who represented salvation. On the other hand, some viewed her as the scourge of the human race, and would destroy them all. This was no more evident than the conflict between Cable and Bishop. The two mutants continually fought over the baby, Cable believing her to be a saviour. Bishop believed quite the contrary, believing she would be the end of the mutant race. By the end of Messiah Complex, Cable was entrusted by his father, Cyclops, to take the baby into the timestream and keep her safe from the likes of Bishop until she could return. This kick-started a two year journey for X-men fans as they watched her grow up in Cable, evading Bishop as they jumped from one time period to the next. As she grew, she came to bare some striking similarities to another female mutant, what with her red hair and green eyes. She even exhibited the phoenix force’s signature flame in her eyes. We gradually saw her capabilities become clear, and finally when she aged to about 17 we saw a glimpse of her powers as she saved Cable from Bishop, someone she had come to consider her father. Ultimately the girl returned with Cable to present day, prepared to face the expectations thrust on her, and those like Bastion, Grayden Creed and Bollivar Trask who would do her harm. Her name is Hope, and she is everything the mutant race needs her to be, and perhaps everything humankind is to fear. Ohhhh, ominous.
What’s the Story
In the final chapter of the Second Coming saga, we find the mutants coming to terms with the end of their flirtation with extinction, their struggle to simply be. Despite casualties among them, the mutants survived.
The initial chapter written by Zeb Wells focuses on Hope. After destroying Bastion, she falls to the ground in exhaustion after expelling her energies and unleashing the true breadth of her mutant powers. As she does though, all she can do is fall to the ground and clutch the techno-organic arm of Cable, her father who had sacrificed himself for his friends. She wakes up some time later resting alongside Magneto in the infirmary. After a short conversation, a possible mentorship between Hope and Magneto seems possible. Could this be what people like Bishop feared? Will Hope’s upbringing counteract whatever Magneto tells her?
In the second chapter, Mike Carey takes over the writing duties. It begins with a quick flashback to the future(?) while Cable and Hope were on the run. It builds upon their relationship before moving back to the present for his funeral procession where Hope ultimately eulogizes her dad.
In chapter three, X-Force writers Craig Kyle and Chris Yost put their final stamp on their X-Force run with a piece focusing on Wolverine and Storm as they share a drink over a fallen friend. They talk about the things X-Force did to safeguard mutantkind, and how if given the chance to repeat their extreme methods, he’d do them again. Storm disagrees with this, saying this will be the last time they share a drink. The final piece of the chapter focuses on Cyclops and Wolverine as they discuss X-Force’s place in the new heroic age. It’s decided that X-Force doesn’t have a place in it, and they’re to be decommissioned. They part ways as Wolverine tells him to go get some sleep, saying he has something to take care of before he leaves. The chapter ends with a splash page, and surprisingly Logan isn’t ready let the team go just yet. Yost and Kyle unveil the new X-Force, one which will be even further off the grid as a black ops team than before.
In the final chapter, Uncanny X-Men writer Matt Fraction concludes with several conversations between Cyclops and various X-Men members. In the chapter he goes to speak with Emma Frost to check on her, as well as Hope. The conversation ends rather quickly and Cyclops goes back to their war room to continue writing a condolence letter to a fallen teammate’s sister. As he does though, we see two things. Emma witnesses what may be Hope’s destiny, as the breadth of her powers may stand yet to be fully revealed. Enough to scare her, she runs to Cyclops who by now is in the war room. She runs in on him, just as five small lights illuminate Cerebra’s screen. The X-gene just activated in five people, meaning that the mutant population just grew, ending the series on a hopeful note.
The Pretty, Pretty Pictures
Since the art duties are split between four different teams, I’ll have to talk about them separately. You get different feels varying between chapters, with some of them simply outclassing other teams’ efforts.
In the first chapter, Roberson and Milla turn in some great work together. They use kind of a grainy, textured style to simulate the ground and rocks around the characters. It looks pretty good. The real coup of their efforts though is the heartbreaking scene where Hope simply falls to the ground crying and clutches her dad’s arm. The team then shows their diversity as they switch to an infirmary where Beast checks over his patients. The team does a great job relative to the other teams of drawing the characters’ expressions and facial features. It’s not rigid or unrealistically blocky, actually coming off as fairly three dimensional relative to other efforts. Another great piece is Magneto’s scowl as he berates another mutant for sarcastically attacking Hope. I think he may have wet himself.
In the second chapter, Ribic and Wilson takeover and turn in an average performance. I’m not familiar with their work together, but to be fair I think the point of this section was to create bleak landscape for Cable’s funeral. This was done through the use of paler colouring such as the clouds, however it doesn’t translate well onto the characters who feel lifeless on the pages. This excludes panels where Hope and Cyclops cry separately over his death which were done marginally better, but I can’t help but feel this could have been executed better.
In the third chapter, Land, Leisten and Martin turn in a better performance than the previous chapter. Overall the art does a better job of capturing the characters’ emotion. Wolverine is visually gripping as he intensely sits in his friend’s room while having a drink with Storm. What I like here is the team’s knack for switching between emotional states with ease. Between the two pages, they reflect each other, as Wolverine comes off intense while Storm is drawn saddened over her friend’s death. They take two different approaches to the characters’ states, but what’s a nice twist is the following page where they switch positions. Storm quickly begins to intensely berate Wolverine for his involvement while he displays nothing but regret on his face. Each is done with close-up shots of their faces, and is done rather well. The following pages featuring Wolverine and Cyclops were quite vibrant in their colourization, especially the splash page of the new X-Force team.
In the final chapter the Dodsons take over on art, and I can’t say it’s for the best. I’ve not been a fan of their work thus far, and that hardly is about to change. Compared to the first and third chapters, the art looks even less appealing. I dislike how they’re drawn, as they come off as these blocky, rigid cartoons where it seems like very little detail is put into them. This is contrasted though by some nice artistic touches such as Emma Frost’s cape(?) flapping in the wind, or the bonfire’s flames crackling onto her while she’s in her diamond form. These are nice touches, but they don’t compensate for the blockier characters themselves who are just aren’t appealing when compared to some of the other work in this book.
The issue is essentially an epilogue of Second Coming’s events. I thought it functioned quite well in that role within the larger series, as it simultaneously concluded plot threads for Second Coming, while setting up future storylines such as the new X-Force team, as well as Fraction’s Five Lights story arc.
Where the X-books go now is interesting. With several story arcs throughout the variety of books being set-up in this issue, the opportunity is there for some great and not-so-great stories. I’m not sure I like the idea of Namor and Emma, if we believe the cover of the first issue of Five Lights’ cover. It is after all a teaser and could simply mean they’re touching on their past, but it’s a little worrisome. The Emma-Scott Summers relationship is the best thing to happen to the Cyclops character ever; sorry Jean Grey fans.
Hope’s power set and continued display of a certain fiery birdlike force of nature have me curious. She can apparently use the powers of anyone depending on who’s in proximity to her. Could this mean a certain red head is back somewhere? Or is Hope somehow her reincarnation? Or is she simply tapping into the Phoenix Force? What’s Magneto’s role in this? I don’t know. Regardless, I read the entire Cable run and I’m still interested to see how this plays out, and how her powers actually work. The resurgence of the mutant X-gene is just icing on the cake.
The new X-Force team is an interesting blend of old and new. The team was partially spoiled late last year when it was announced a certain merc (with a mouth) would be joining, but other than that the team fills out quite nicely and X-Force fans should at least be happy about that despite Yost and Kyle’s departures from the book.
Second Coming as a whole however felt like very little happened throughout it, which is disappointing considering that this story stretches even beyond Messiah Complex and into House of M several years ago. It feels like for all the effort that went into this storyline, ranging from the mentioned stories above, to the entire Cable run and its Messiah War crossover with X-Force, that the ending was somewhat anti-climatic. Perhaps that was the intention, to not have a definitive end to it the Messiah trilogy, but to use it to set-up the new status quo in the X-Men universe. Regardless, with each issue it felt like less and less was happening up until the final chapters where X-Force goes into the future to stop Master Mold. Much of the story saw the mutants continually in trouble, almost never resting long enough before the next attack. I suppose if the intent was to illustrate the resilience of the mutants then the story succeeded, but I’m not sure 14 issues were needed to tell that story.
Overall I felt the story was a little drawn out, moreso considering the duration of the efforts put into it. It felt like this story could have been told in eight issues rather than 14 plus several X-Factor tie-ins. The series saw a shift in priorities of the X-Men, as they now enter the Heroic Age anew, with a fairer outlook on their survival, and Hope for a Brand New Day…now with 100 per cent less Mephisto.