The “Second Coming” crossover kicked off with a surprisingly tight, well-written, and, yes, nicely-drawn bookend issue. So it’s a little disappointing to hit chapter two, the first by an existing X-Team, and feel like things have already hit the skids. Perhaps that’s harsh. This isn’t a terrible comic at any rate, but judged by the quality of the preceding chapter, it’s something of a misstep.
For a start, the art is an unusually weak fit for the material. Although Terry Dodson is more or less the best artist currently working on any of the core X-Books, his style isn’t a natural fit for dramatic action scenes, especially in the wake of David Finch who, despite his weaknesses, can do that sort of material more justice. For a story that should rely more on its cinematic scope that its character moments, Dodson’s art is a tonal shift in the wrong direction.
The writing, too, has similar problems. Although being Chapter Two of Fourteen does necessitate a certain amount of the issue being devoted to setting up the story and moving pieces around the playing field ready for things to start paying off, there seems to be very little forward momentum as a result. There’s a lot of talking about the situation; But where, in a crossover, we’d hope for every issue to contain at least one big talking point moment, this issue spends more time examining its characters, and not entirely successfully.
Specifically, it’s Hope who gets the short end of the stick. Fraction’s portrayal of Hope doesn’t mesh at all with how we’ve seen her in the past. The issue opens with her gazing at a pink hairbrush, ignoring her duty of covering Cable as they hold up a convenience store. Later, she irritates Nathan by bouncing on a motel bed. I can understand what Fraction is trying to do here, giving Hope a sense of wide-eyed wonderment at the opulence of modern-day living – but the immaturity she displays is wildly out of character. Growing up in a post-apocalyptic future, she simply never had the luxury of developing these traits, and if we’re being honest, she’s still in a hostile and unfamiliar environment. There’s no reason to drop her defenses now.
On the plus side, there are moments of excellent depth for characters like Colossus, who defuses Nightcrawler’s anger at the existence of X-Force with a single well-placed philosophical question. There’s also a clear and interesting lead-in to the next issue, offering the chance to see the New Mutants in action rather than more of the “Alpha Team” that has dominated the story so far. Honestly, I don’t expect this issue to be typical of the crossover in general, so hopefully the next chapter will prove me wrong