Second Coming started off with a bang after its long publishing delays, with Mark Russell’s signature scathing commentary and biting wit. The focus of the title is on both Christianity and superheroes, and Russell has made it clear that he has a lot to say about both subjects. Second Coming #2 is the realization of that potential, as it dives right into the flaws inherent in superheroes and the culture that surrounds them, in a way incredibly reminiscent of The Boys, which had its TV adaptation released in between the first two issues of this series.
This issue focuses almost entirely on the superheroic side of the commentary, just as #1 spent more time delving into Christianity. It opens with the reveal that the robots that Sunstar brutally destroyed in the middle of the first issue were actually not robots at all, but instead were people in suits that happened to look like robots – who Sunstar viciously killed. Sunstar is clearly shaken by the fact that he killed people – or at the very least, the fact that the public is horrified by his killing people. But rather than reflect on his failings as a hero, Sunstar falls into the realm of toxic masculinity, acting possessive over his girlfriend and generally refusing to accept responsibility for his actions. This is further worsened by God bringing Sunstar to heaven and giving him a “pep talk,” reaffirming that Sunstar’s hypermasculinity and lack of thought before action is the path he should take.
This issue uses superheroes as a tool to criticize toxic masculinity as it pervades our culture. Sunstar is a clear chauvinist: he refers to his girlfriend as “his woman” and does exactly what she asks him not to do as an attempt to show that she is under his protection. He goes behind her back and lies to her about this, choosing to enact his own power fantasy rather than actually deal with relationship issues in a healthy manner. The ultimate consequence of this continuous decision results in Sunstar killing yet another innocent person, which finally sends him over the edge and makes him realize that he is going about his life the wrong way. This final acceptance and resignation is an important message of the issue – that the idea of “Might makes right” doesn’t work, and instead causes so many problems both on a personal and global level. It also leads into the thesis statement for this issue, which is when Jesus says that “God is the life of the party… he’s not the guy who helps you clean up afterwards.” Russell is using Sunstar as a way to portray those who use what they perceive to be God’s blessing to act in terrible ways, and this depiction rings incredibly true and maintains its impact through the end of the issue.
As is standard for Russell, the book continues to be incredibly funny. Russell’s use of both slapstick and deadpan humor is incredibly effective, and the jokes are perfectly executed by the art. Richard Pace and Leonard Kirk do an excellent job conveying Russell’s story, and while most of the humor involves text and items from the script, it lands as well as it does near entirely because the art team makes the facial expressions and body language of the characters work perfectly in tandem with the dialogue and narration. The issue feels perfectly cohesive from start to finish, in large part because of the art. This issue is an excellent continuation of the series, and has plenty of meaningful things to say about religion, heroism, and masculinity.