(w) Mark Russell (a) Richard Pace (i) Leonard Kirk (c) Andy Troy (cvr) Amanda Conner
Blasphemy is defined as irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable. Since the announcement of Second Coming, originally to be published by the now sunsetting Vertigo, has been the target of the American right wing media and – more specifically – the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of Christianity. They’re efforts may have scared DC/Vertigo’s parent company WarnerMedia, but writer Mark Russell and artist Richard Pace remained undeterred. Eventually, Second Coming found a home at upstart publisher Ahoy Comics. Now that the first issue is here, was it worth all the hoopla? Yes. Russell and Pace are irreverent by having the gall to ask basic, logical questions about the contents of one of the world’s most sacred texts while simultaneously critiquing classic and modern superhero tropes.
Unlike most stories that tackle the subject of religion, Second Coming #1 mostly focuses on the Abrahamic God and how he perceives humans. Russell’s script is quick to point out a few farcical elements in the Old Testament stories, while also putting darkly humorous spin on others. This God sees humans as a failed experiment, that he has to just deal with. His attempts to correct their course of action continue to backfire. Russell reflects on how Ten Commandments have been used by people not to better society, but to justify their own horrific acts against others, as well as for the wealthy and powerful to subjugate the masses.
The story eventually turns to Jesus, and his time on Earth. Little is actually known of Jesus’ childhood, other than a few anecdotes from the gospels. Russell seizes this opportunity to humanize the religious icon, giving him a larger family – specifically brothers and a childhood friend. Eventually, a cruel twist of fate would have their paths cross once more before Jesus’ famed crucifixion. Russell does little to conceal this, making the twist unsurprising. However, the rendering by Richard Pace, Leonard Kirk and Andy Troy makes their reunion impactful. As we know, Jesus’ message of love and peace did not sit well with the Romans, who had him executed. God isn’t pleased about this, but not so much the humans who “killed” his son, but Jesus for only lasting 33 years. It’s genuinely hilarious and relatable, especially for those that have ever disappointed a parental figure. As punishment for his “failure,” God forbids Jesus from returning to the mortal plane – indefinitely delaying the prophesized (and titular) second coming.
Sunstar, dopey costume aside, is practically perfect in every way. Only problem is that being a strange visitor from another planet, his physiology is incompatible with humans. This is hardly new ground. Stjepan Sejic has a fun webcomic dealing with the same topic. A scene from Mallrats in which Kryptonite condoms are a focal point landed Kevin Smith a writing gig for the unmade Tim Burton Superman movie in the 1990s. While not necessarily original, Russell and Pace explore this plot point in a humorous and topical manner. They even go so far as to touch on how the adoption of a child is a complicated and bureaucratic mess. Regardless, Sunstar’s sheer awesomeness catches the attention of God, viewing the superhero as a fitting mentor for Jesus.
Structurally, Second Coming #1 succeeds in setting up the premise of an original series within the space of one issue. Russell’s script is well paced, keeping the issue moving methodically from panel-to-panel, page-to-page. Never does it read too quick or too slow. While wordy, it never encroaches on Pace and Kirk’s artwork. Allowing the artwork to breathe enhances the storytelling, which is surprisingly full of strong, emotional beats. While played for laughs, there is a twinge of discomfort in God’s words as he laments the direction humanity has taken. Meanwhile, Jesus himself is a wealth of joyful innocence. Even when he has been crucified, he remains hopeful that they will make good decisions despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Second Coming #1 is a must read comic for fans of satire, critical thinking, and simply good storytelling. It is thoroughly entertaining from start to finish, courtesy of Russell’s trademark wit and Pace’s emotive characters. Yes, it possesses some elements that people will find uncomfortable – especially those that do not like their worldview put into question. However, if those Christian conservatives that were so up in arms about this book’s publication take the time to see what it says, they might have a good time. Who knows? Maybe they’ll start acting like Christ.