No more mutants? How about more mutants?
Second Coming marks the final part of the trilogy that would revive mutants from the extinction they faced after Scarlet Witch muttered the words “No more mutants”, reducing the Marvel universe to 199 mutants across the globe. The trilogy launched with the “Messiah Complex” and “Messiah War” in 2007, wrapping the story in 2010.
SPOILERS FOR SECOND COMING AHEAD!
After the events of M-Day, which took the growing population of mutants and limited them to a measly couple hundred, the X-Men had been fighting for their basic survival in the world. A human council had formed to see the full extinction of the mutant race with members like Graydon Creed, Cameron Hodge and William Stryker under the command of mutant-hunter, Bastion. The hope for the mutant race had been dwindling, until a mutant signature is detected with a baby: Hope. The time traveler, Cable, then becomes the protector of this child, hiding her in apocalyptic future of war where she trained her to survive. Fellow time traveler, Bishop, followed them throughout time trying to eradicate Hope’s existence.
Second Coming brings this storyline to full circle when Cable returns with a teenage Hope to the X-Men’s present day. Cyclops sends his teams to find Cable and Hope against the odds of Bastion’s team of mutant hunters. It is a story about war and survival, but most importantly, it’s about hope that the mutant race will not go extinct.
This is a fast-paced story. The reader does not sit with any set of characters for more than a couple of pages before something up or when there is an attack by an enemy. At first, it seems frustrating because we are not seeing any character development, and often our favorite X-Men personalities don’t get to shine in the spotlight. As the X-Men are tricked and soon trapped within a sphere created by Bastion which encases all of Utopia, it becomes clear that this is not a story about character development. It is a story about war and the very survival of the mutant race. Every second counts, and the longer it takes for Hope to arrive on Utopia, more mutants die in the process.
There are many casualties of this war: Karma’s leg is torn off her body, Colossus’s metal arm breaks, and Magik gets trapped in Limbo. Characters like Ariel and Nightcrawler are killed in trying to save Hope’s life, a tactical move made by “The Human Council” that would wipe out all of the X-Men’s teleporters.
At this point, it’s been a decade since this story was released. The death of Nightcrawler and these X-Men have been rendered moot, as they have all revived back to life – and this is pre-regeneration pools in Krakoa. The time the reader spends with the death of Nightcrawler is written well, but loses its power knowing that he is comes to life after a few years. This is a problem with storytelling throughout the comic book industry: Death is just a fashion statement. These characters can try it on for a while, but they will always come back to life. Even Cable faces death in this story, but has since died and come back to life twice in the last decade.
Cyclops puts all of the X-Men and their lives on the line. He has made the decision that if they can’t rescue Hope, they are all going to die anyway. It’s a terrible plan that is based on the idea that Hope may be special enough to be connected to the revival of mutants. Several of the X-Men call Cyclops out on this, saying that Cyclops has no true backing for protecting Hope. Luckily Hope does become the person who triggers the X-Gene to wake up in people around the world, but until that moment Cyclops has no basis for his theory and questionably puts all of the X-Men and their lives on their line for a myth. He later takes Rogue off the team for being a “wild and loose cannon” because she makes the decision to let Hope fight in the war while under her protection, yet the only loose cannon here is Cyclops. Every decision he makes is questionable and forces the reader to wonder, “is Cyclops fit to lead the X-Men?”
On the other hand, there is Bastion and the Human Council who are absolutely relentless in killing mutants. To see characters hate a marginalized class as deeply as this team is truly terrifying — these are the true villains to the X-Men. Bastion even goes as far to pull Sentinels from the future who have taken Earth into the present to kill the X-Men. It’s truly a work of horror.
Second Coming is a dark and gruesome war story. It’s mutants fighting for their right to live against the odds of very powerful, racist bigots. The art is beautiful, and when there is time to focus on character development, it is also written beautifully. This isn’t a story about freedom fighting, it is a story about war.