Second Coming #6 channels The Last Temptation of Christ and Superfriends and is a solid season finale despite the occasional whiplash in tone from funny and satirical to earnest to maybe serious. Mark Russell, Richard Pace, Leonard Kirk, and Andy Troy spin the story of Sunstar’s wedding and Jesus’ final showdown with Satan that may have some people of faith have similar reactions as some Superman fans did to the ending of Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.
The best part of this comic and probably of the whole miniseries is how Russell and Pace riff on how Jesus, God the Father, and Satan are portrayed in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. (My favorite one is Jesus’ reaction to the writings of St. Paul.) With callbacks to changing water to wine, the Last Supper, and even Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, the interrogate the nature of faith as well as the temptations of money and power that Jesus rejected according to the New Testament narrative. Pace’s scratchy inks and sepia color palette versus the cleaner lines, bright colors, and classical proportions of Kirk and Troy’s art in the Sunstar scenes create tension and doubt in these flashbacks.
Russell sometimes undercuts this by going for the easy, obvious joke (i.e. his description of circumcision), but from his work on the page and in the letters column, he seems to have a desire to grapple with the relationship between faith and religion, Instead of going the route of Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard and seeing Abraham as a “knight of faith”, Russell and Pace point out the absurdity of his actions and especially the naivete of Isaac, who despite being a teenager, lets his father kill because God “said so”.
However, there is a positive side to this dig as Jesus shares with his new “followers” that they need to think carefully about what they choose to trust and believe and not just blindly do something or follow someone because they think a higher power told them to. Pace is great at showing the quick reactions to these ideas from Jesus’ new followers, who have a knee jerk reaction instead of listening and asking questions. Then, Leonard Kirk and Andy Troy jump back in when Sunstar comes to save the day to show the futility of the outwardly heroic, yet inwardly flawed superhero to bail him out. Jesus has to make a sacrifice, and in Second Coming, he makes an ideological one that raised the stakes higher than any crucifixion/resurrection redux or superhero slugfest.
Speaking of superheroes, these elements are the weakest in Second Coming, and the conspiracy theorist in me thinks that they were inserted to make the pitch more initially palatable to DC Comics/Vertigo. The superhero genre is so well-trodden, and Russell, Pace, Kirk, and Troy don’t really break new ground with Sunstar’s struggle to balance relationships with crime fighting. However, earlier issues created a nice contrast between Jesus’ pacifism and Sunstar’s violence. Russell and Pace unfortunately don’t have Jesus and Sunstar after Jesus gives into violence in the conclusion of Second Coming and just have him and Sheila be Jesus and God’s bowling partners. It’s a fun joke, but shows that the superhero part of Second Coming was just kind of there and didn’t really enhance the narrative except for the aforementioned visual contrast or a joke or two.
The final sequence of Second Coming #6 is both profound and banal. There are a few more fun jokes like God sucking at bowling and the “+” of the pregnancy looking like a cross. Russell and Pace are also trying to create some kind of meaning out of Jesus choosing to be a killer and not a martyr and land on “You messed up. There will be a fresh start next day/bowling frame.” There is a dark layer of irony to these statements because they’re delivered by God, who basically took this approach to the Earth and its inhabitants during Noah’s flood and was about to destroy the world again if Jesus was killed by modern humans. There’s a whole “I’m all powerful. I don’t give a shit.” attitude air to the gestures and body language that Richard Pace gives whereas Jesus is much more tense, angsty, and heavily inked. Life goes on, and there are no consequences. Oh, and look, here’s a miracle baby for the “faithful” Sheila and Sunstar because that’s something I’ve done in the past.
Second Coming #6 is a comic that is both entertaining and attempts at wrestling with the big questions in life, and Mark Russell, Richard Pace, Leonard Kirk, and Andy Troy succeed at the first part more than the second one. However, there’s also a level of humility to not trying to wrap up a tale of gods and humans, faith and doubt in an easily packaged takeaway. Just like God’s bowling game and metaphor, humans are flawed and messed up, but we have our moments and can find friendship and community like Jesus did with his superhero roommate in Second Coming.
Story: Mark Russell Art: Richard Pace with Leonard Kirk
Colors: Andy Troy Letters: Rob Steen
Story: 7.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 7.3 Recommendation: Read
Ahoy Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review