I have to give Mike Carey and the rest of the writers of the "Second Coming" crossover credit: they're doing a good job of subtly raising the stakes with each new chapter. Normally, a whopping 14-part story (plus an additional seven issues of tie-ins) would start with a big bang to get everyone's attention, and then lie low for a while, saving the big moments for the end. That's not the case here; we're four chapters into the story and all hell has already broken loose.
Carey helps maintain that feeling by shifting the tone from one scene to the next. When you've got Ariel joking to Rogue about how her teleport doors create static cling, it makes the assault of the Right on the New Mutants a few pages later that much nastier. There's such a sharp contrast between the battle scenes and the others that everything is just a little more brutal. Mind you, the battle scenes are tough in their own right. Carey makes sure that the characters in this story understand just how high the stakes are and, perhaps even more importantly, how tough the villains are. Carey and company have assembled a tough rogue's gallery for "Second Coming" and we get them treated like threats, not comedy.
There are nice touches along the way in the fight, too; Warlock going up against Cameron Hodge will resonate well with readers who remember how Warlock originally died back in "New Mutants" #95, and the Cypher and Warlock pep talk fits well into what we've learned so far about both characters. Carey also continues to show off his inventive and strategic use of Rogue, a good reminder on why she's normally the "X-Men Legacy" main character. Once "X-Men Legacy" is finally clear of crossovers (first "X-Necrosha" and now "Second Coming") it'll be nice to see Carey finally move forward with his plans for Rogue and company, if this issue is anything to go off of.
Greg Land's pencils continue to show off Land's strengths and weaknesses. Half the time, his characters look lively and full of energy; the other half of the time, though, they feel a little too stiff and posed. Land's lightboxing of photos and models also results in wildly inconsistent portrayals of the various characters. Take page 11, where the Emma Frost in the first panel looks like a different character than the Emma Frost two panels later. I'm not against comic artists using photos as reference material (P. Craig Russell and Tony Harris use models to great effect), but it's hard to follow Land's art at times because his reference material seems to be forever changing, without him adapting their figures appropriately.
When I first heard about "Second Coming" I'll admit I groaned at the thought of another crossover, but this has proven to be a thoroughly enjoyable crossover so far. If the remaining ten chapters keep the pace, this could go down as one of the best "X-Men" family crossovers to date. Good work, all involved.