Beginning the third part of the trilogy of stories that include “Messiah Complex” and Messiah War,” “X-Men: Second Coming” #1 does an adequate job of setting up the players in this event, but doesn’t exactly demonstrate what the plot will be. If you were to judge by what’s given, there doesn’t seem to be much of a plot set up beyond "Hope returns to the present with Cable and some bad guys want to kill her using means that will be determined sometime in the future." For the kick-off issue of an event years in the making, there’s a significant lack of depth in the plotting and not much here that compels to continue reading the story.
Taken simply as a story where Cable and Hope return to the present, this issue makes for better reading, working as a story unto itself, not as much the beginning of a big crossover event. The two appear in the middle of the ruins of the Mansion, unaware of what has happened during the time that they’ve been gone, causing them to think the X-Men have been killed and that it’s not safe. Of course, that’s when some bad guys show up to prove the point. Meanwhile, the X-Men detect the mutant signature of Cable and, not knowing if Hope is still alive or not, rush to Westchester to bring Cable back to Utopia -- and, if she’s alive, Hope as well.
The character work in this issue is strong. Cyclops trusting without question that a lack of mutant signature for Hope is merely a way to keep her as hidden and protected on the part of Cable, because he so wants the first mutant born since M-Day to be alive and in a position to mean something to mutantkind, is interesting and illuminating. The others aren’t so believing, but that Cyclops needs for Hope to be alive and to be a miracle for his people shows just how concerned he is for the future of mutants. As their leader, he presents a brave front often, but there’s more beneath the surface, which Hope’s presence shows.
There’s also another illumination between the X-Men as, in the process of protecting Cable and Hope from the Sapien League, the brutal methods of X-Force are exposed. Together with the revelation of who is behind the Sapien League, this looks like a driving point of “Second Coming,” but neither revelation seems big enough to warrant a big event crossover. That lack of feeling that something big is happening here is what hampers this issue mostly. Instead of coming off as a culmination of years of building for a giant payoff, it feels like a continuation of ongoing plots with the same level of excitement and drama as always.
David Finch being on art does help the book feel more special, like the beginning of a big story, but he’s never given anything amazing to draw. The fight with the Sapien League is small in scale with the X-Men taking on guys in hockey masks in a van, basically. Finch’s art recalls the look of the X-books in the ‘90s and those crossover events with lots of cross-hatching, misshapen faces, and energetic action scenes. With so much of the issue resting on character reactions, Finch is hit or miss. In some cases, his characters emote well, but, in others, they’re flat and non-responsive. While bringing him on board was a good idea, the writing of the issue isn’t geared to his strengths as much as it could be.
“X-Men: Second Coming” #1 is a good comic taken alone, but, as the beginning of an event crossover, it lacks a necessary flair and feeling of something big happening. Yost and Kyle clearly know these characters and write them well, but the plot is lacking. Hopefully, it’s a case of saving the best for later and not indicative of how the story will play out over the next few months.