X-Men: Second Coming – Act I

Writers: Matt Fraction, Zeb Wells*, Mike Carey, Chris Yost & Craig Kyle

Artists: David Finch, Terry Dodson, Ibraim Roberson*, Greg Land, Mike Choi & others

Publisher: Marvel Comics

* disclaimer: I am yet to read New Mutants #12 – so apologies top the team for glossing over this issue here…

So, Act I of the latest Marvel X-over ended last week in brutal fashion with the death of one of the stalwarts – one could possibly say legends – of the X-Men franchise. Just in case there is anyone interested in comics who has not yet found out the identity of the first A-list casualty of Second Coming, I will not mention details here. I will however say that this death was given the care and poignancy it deserves (with further repercussions and a funeral still to come later this week), while framing it within the much bigger picture of a war for the survival of the mutant species. There was no major melodrama or unnecessary hype within the story, just a simple sacrifice to save the lives of colleagues and friends that fit comfortably within the development of the wider story.

So, what of this wider story? Well, so far, I am very pleasantly surprised and impressed with the way in which this event has all come together as a cohesive whole, with each creative team providing its own stamp of individuality. Matt Fraction and Mike Carey are especially strong at giving individual characters time to breathe and express themselves even when the plot is running at break-neck speed, and they certainly deliver here, while Kyle & Yost’s handling of the ‘death issue’ is one of their best in terms of dialogue and pacing.

It is great to see that Marvel have assembled such an array of talent to bring this storyline to life; so often previous X-overs have been devalued by at least one weak link in terms of the storytellers involved, but I do not think the same can be said here (I did flick through the New Mutants issue and was impressed by Roberson’s contribution). Readers will of course always have their own personal favourites and pariahs, especially with regards to artists, but there is a unifying element of energy and vitality on display on almost every page, with no sign yet of artists being forced to rush in order to get this out on time – in fact, this is probably Greg Land’s strongest X-Men issue to date.

David Finch kicked the series off In the Second Coming prologue issue, and while it is not his strongest work on every page, it displays all the necessary dynamism to pull readers into the essence of the life-or-death conflict, with just the right level of violence mixed with super-heroic action. It is perhaps not the perfect send-off I was hoping for before Mr. Finch heads off to DC, but in general it was a nice looking first issue, which introduced the key players without too much exposition (whether this was enough for the newbie reader, I’m not so sure, but does anyone really see crossover events as good jumping-on points?). Finch is one of the very best Wolverine artists in the business and his alternate covers are striking – but then they probably have to be to compete with the incredible compositions being created by regular Second Coming cover artist, Adi Granov.

The end of X-Force #26 really did have the finality of the closing of a first act, while creating plenty more drama for the coming chapters. Even taking into account that it is pretty difficult to not get me excited about a traditional X-over, the quality on show in these first five issues is enough to lift Second Coming beyond a fan-boy’s geek excitement and into the realms of impressive and dramatic visual storytelling. OK, it’s nothing ground-breaking and you have to take this for what it is – in essence it’s a big sprawling battle on many fronts – but the beauty of the series so far is in its small but poignant character moments; if they nail this right in the upcoming Uncanny X-Men #524 (the funeral issue) and build on it through to the event’s climax, then this has the potential to go down as the best X-men crossover since Inferno.

Rating: 8/10

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