With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Artists: David Finch, Terry Dodson, Ibraim Robertson, Greg land, Mike Choi
Issues: Second Coming: Prepare, X-Men: Second Coming #1-2, Uncanny X-Men #523-525, New Mutants #12-14, X-Men: Legacy #235-237, X-Force #26-28*
*Also read the Second Coming Revelations trade, which includes X-Factor #204-206, X-Men Second Coming Revelations: Blind Science, X-Men: Hellbound #1-3
“You’ll feel it, Hope. Like nothing you’ve ever felt before. It’l be like a switched turned on inside you. Like a fire. And once that fire’s lit…everything will change.”
Remember how much I gushed about how awesome the mega crossover X-Men event Messiah Complex was? Well the two-years in the making sequel, Second Coming, makes that look like crap. Which is to say it’s bloody amazing.
X-Men: Second Coming finally brings Hope, the young mutant messiah, back into our timeline. At the end of Messiah Complex Cable took the first mutant baby born since M-Day forward into the future to escape danger (even though just about every future scenario is super dangerous). Bishop, on a quest to prevent his own apocalyptic future, hunts them down through time. What followed was a pretty nice two year arc of Cable as a tough-love dad with Hope growing up knowing only war, danger, and survival.
Meanwhile with Xavier’s school destroyed, the X-Men relocated to San Francisco. Then when shit hit the fan, Cyclops moved everyone to the island of Utopia – arisen from Magneto’s old Asteroid M that had crashed into the ocean (Namor is a useful ally to have around).
Cyclops, who’s grown into a real wartime general that makes even Magneto bend the knee, also restarts X-Force as a mutant black ops group, tasked with trying to kill the bad guys before they can do more harm. It was a very bloody, very violent series with some spiffy art.
And at some point Marvel started up a mostly unnecessary but surprisingly decent New Mutants series. All of this means that X-Men: Second Coming, like all X-Men stuff is densely mired in continuity and current events. This makes it both off-putting for anyone trying to jump in, but rewarding for fans following the X-Men’s dire saga in the last few years. I’m in the latter camp, so I absolutely loved it.
Like Messiah Complex in 2008, Second Coming‘s event takes over four separate mutant-related series, all done by different writers and artists. Each one is clearly labeled as Chapter 1, 2, etc, making reading order a breeze. It also throws out trying to keep each one separate and unique, opting instead to tell one long, flowing story.
It’s a bold choice, requiring everyone to buy or subscribe to each series at the time. It works very well when reading them together years later in a trade paperback. The Second Coming TPB is incredibly comprehensive, with 15 total issues, while a supplement titled Second Coming: Revelations includes the lingering outliers (and is actually well worth reading).
Bastion was introduced in X-Force following the Messiah Complex storyline, and he ascends as the primary villain. His first act was to resurrect all the old anti-mutant villains from the X-Men’s past such as William Stryker, Graydon Greed, and Cameron Hodge. It’s a nifty cabal of evil, made even more deadly by Bastion’s direct overmind-style control of everyone. Also he’s an android with a goatee, which is just a fantastic look.
Bastion’s machinations are teased throughout 20+ issues of X-Force, and it finally comes to a climactic head in Second Coming. The Purifiers are hundreds of soldiers strong, and they go after Cable and Hope in full force. Cyclops responds by sending out multiple teams to bring them in to Utopia.
Wolverine, X-23, Angel, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Psylocke, and Magik get in two awesome battles with an army of Purifiers as they try to meet up with Cable and Hope, who attempt to run and go to ground, Terminator-style. The rest of the X-Men learn about X-Force when they notice people like X-23 just straight up murdering people. Nightcrawler in particular has a huge problem with this, and Cyclops begins taking heat from his fellow mutants that lasts throughout the entire series.
During the second battle with Stryker and company, they fire a special weapon, sending Magik back to Limbo and spinning off a whole separate X-Men: Hellbound mini-series. While completely separate from Second Coming, it’s a fun pseudo-sequel to the end of New X-Men.
It stars an odd but fun team from several different X-titles on a rescue mission to hell: Pixie, Cannonball, Dazzler, Trance, Anole, Gambit, and Northstar. It expands on the animosity between Pixie and Magik. Also, Gambit as Death makes for a cool plot point and callback to many years ago when Gambit submitted to Apocalypse.
Meanwhile Cyclops sends the New Mutants team on the offensive, attempting to strike back against the Purifiers. We get another awesome large-scale fight with powers flowing left and right and dramatic moments everywhere. Karma violently loses a leg in the fight with Hodge. The team only perseveres when Cypher convinces Warlock that it’s kill or be killed.
They learn about Bastion’s towers, but are too late to discover his backup plan: trapping the X-Men in Utopia in a giant sphere. First he tries to eliminate Hope before she gets there. The X-Men have a plan: they learn that Bastion can track Cable thanks to his TO virus, so they set up a decoy and split up Hope with Nightcrawler and Rogue.
The decoy team gets hit hard, including a missile from a jet that kills Ariel, who had teleported in to deliver Rogue. Cyclops is a pretty impressive war-time general and absolutely unafraid to get his people killed. It’s been a quieting evolution to his character, and strangely satisfying.
Bastion himself doesn’t take the bait, and goes after Hope directly. Now that Rogue is in control of her powers she has some awesome moments fighting Bastion with multiple X-Men powers, but it’s not enough. Nightcrawler ultimately sacrifices himself to teleport Hope away at the last moment…while Bastion’s arm is through him. Kurt!!
It’s a shocking moment, particularly when they killed Ariel and I thought “okay, people will die but it’ll be minor mutants we don’t really care about.” Nightcrawler is obviously a huge character, and they subtlety telegraphed his demise by focusing on his shock at seeing X-Force in action, as well as his strong faith in Hope as the mutant messiah.
Everyone meets up back in Utopia, and then the sphere envelops them all as part of a coordinated attack. The planes are destroyed, Cerebra is cut-off, and the sphere completely isloates the X-Men (and much of San Francisco) from the rest of the world.
We get brief cameos from the Avengers and Fantastic Four, as a giant city-sphere is not something to be taken lightly. There’s little they can do on the outside but scratch their heads.
Inside, the X-Men find a second smaller sphere that’s actually a time-portal that starts shuttling in future sentinels from a time when mutants were driven extinct. Remember the dark future framework surrounding the film X-Men: Days of Future Past and the badass adaptive sentinels? They’re here in full force, and ready for some crazy epic fight scenes. It’s a shame they kept the awkward name “Nimrods” to describe them, though.
Lots of crazy moments are included here, and at least one issue is just fight scene after fight scene with barely any dialogue. Thankfully the art is incredible, I loved each artists’ interpretation of the characters and action. Mike Choi’s art in the X-Force issues are particularly breath-taking. Though Rogue’s outfit in particular tends to get awkwardly sexed-up depending on the artist.
Hellion loses his arms. Colossus has his arm broken in metal form. Mulitple high-powered X-Men get to completely let loose with their powers, like Storm’s lightning storm. Magneto gets out of his sickbed from bringing Kitty Pryde back to Earth afew issues ago in Uncanny X-Men (who’s sadly fridged throughout this story) and destroys multiple nimrods with one blow.
With tens of thousands of nimrods set to come through, the X-Men have only one plan – send a team into the timestream to destroy the source, the master mold.
Cable has one time-travel jump remaining (the Chekov’s Gun of this story) and leads X-Force plus Cypher into the mutant-less cyber-future, where we’re treated to brief but cool echoes of the original 80s Days of Future Past story. We’re treated to splitscreen fights between present and future as both teams battle, and it’s an orgy of amazing art and action. They finally manage to get Cypher into Master Mold, where he rewrites it, destroying the sentinel factory.
Only one threat remains, Bastion himself. (Actually the entire Purifier anti-mutant faction still exists and would pose problems in the years to come). Bastion is hell-bent on destroying Hope, and his evolution from calculating to passionate obsession feels earned, and leads to a fantastic final boss battle. Predictably Hope fully lets loose with her mutant powers (which seems to be everyone’s, “She’s all of us”) and Bastion is finally destroyed once and for all.
It was an incredibly hard-fought victory. The future team find out that only non-organic matter can make the return trip through the time-portal (Terminator rules!) so Cable sacrifices himself to the TO virus, becoming fully organic and transporting the team through before he succumbs and dies.
It’s heart-breaking for Hope to lose the only ally and father-figure she’s known her entire life – and also cliché and predictable. Of course the mentor dies so the trainee can fully evolve. You even hear Cable’s speech I quoted above during her climactic battle, Obi-Wan style. But I didn’t care. It’s all so damn fun and uplifting, clichés be damned.
The X-Men survive one of the most thrilling stories I’ve ever read in comics. Even the tangential X-Factor tie-ins (included in Second Coming: Revelations) are fun and action-packed as they fend off a full-on Purifier attack. X-Force is dissolved, only for Wolverine to turn around and create a new team completely off the books, starting a new Uncanny X-Force series. At the end several new mutant signatures are detected, signifying a new hope for mutantkind (and a new series in Generation Hope).
X-Men: Second Coming is easily one of my favorite X-Men stories ever, but it absolutely requires a ton of back-reading and setup to fully understand. As a climax to the last two years of story arcs it is incredibly satisfying. The chapter layout works well and even the constant artist change for each title brings a fun but consistent depth, rather than the jarring differences seen in Messiah Complex. Highly recommended for mutant fans.