Wednesday 4 March 2020

SECOND COMING by Mark Russell & Richard Pace

The main headline here is that this is the series that DC succumbed to pressure to cancel before the first issue was released. Ironically, the DC imprint Vertigo was eventually closed and Second Coming (Ahoy Comics) found a new publisher.

The story that religious campaigners took issue with involves a very human God – with volatile temper and ego – who feels that while he knows how to use his own power, his son Jesus wastes his by rejecting it for his belief in non-interventionist peace and forgiveness. Initially reluctant to send Jesus to Earth again for his education (given how things turned out the last time, some 2000 years ago) God spots the activities of Earth’s mightiest hero Sunstar and asks him to allow Jesus to move in with him so that he can teach him to make use of his power.

This conceit has mismatched couple comedy written all over it but writer Mark Russell doesn’t indulge in it too much beyond an early outing when Jesus accompanies Sunstar on a raid of a villain’s lair. While this is a humorous book, Russell has plenty of serious points to make in his exploration of religion and the responsibility of power. As we’ve seen from other examples over the years (Garth Ennis has been there with The Pro and Preacher), normalising superheroes or grounding religious deities can be comical and thought-provoking. With Second Coming, Russell has mixed the two which adds depth to the idea of mythology and parables and how they can be misinterpreted and manipulated to suit our own purposes or teach us universal truths about life.

Artistically the book is excellent. For the sections involving just God or Jesus, we have Richard Pace’s sketchy-looking artwork ably capturing both a tone for both human forms and flashbacks of religious events. With the sections involving Sunstar, superhero comic regular Leonard Kirk finishes Pace’s art to give it that recognisable superhero comic look. At once it captures the way two worlds are colliding, but ones which seem to belong together.

For all the complaints DC received about the idea behind Second Coming, the final product is refreshingly clean-cut, wrapping insightful philosophical debate with a delicate mix of absurd humour and drama.

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