“Second Coming” is turning out to be a better crossover than I initially thought it would be. The fight between the X-Men and Bastion’s Sapien League has been entertaining as both try and gain possession of Hope. Here, Bastion himself comes face to face with Hope, only Rogue and Nightcrawler standing between him and his target -- and, as promised, an X-Man dies.
With the various mutant groups separated in an effort to divide Bastion’s forces, Cable has stayed with members of X-Force, Colossus, and Psylocke to throw off the Sapien League’s tracking, while Hope makes a mad dash for Utopia with Nightcrawler teleporting her and Rogue. The divided forces allows for Kyle and Yost to jump around a bit to establish what losses the mutants have taken — and what they’ve dished out in the process, showing us the aftermath of the Cannonball’s team’s encounter with Cameron Hodge and Cable and company doing some heavy damage.
But, the real focus of this issue is Bastion confronting Hope, Nightcrawler, and Rogue. He’s an upgraded, more dangerous version, and he makes short work of Hope’s protectors leaving her seemingly defenseless. Until one of the mutants sacrifices his or herself to save Hope. That’s the point where the comic’s quality falls drastically as the death doesn’t come off as earned or deserved. With the promise that an X-Man will die in “X-Force” #26 and the actual execution (no pun intended) here, it doesn’t come off as much more than a cheap stunt to make this story seem bigger and more important.
Part of that is the writing where the stakes aren’t raised enough yet. Yes, Hope is important, but the confrontation with Bastion comes out of nowhere, like the story skipped several chapters. The death, too, isn’t presented in the best fashion, like it was absolutely necessary, that there were no other options, particularly for as experienced and intelligent a character.
The other part of why it doesn’t work entirely is Mike Choi and Sonia Oback’s art, which has a glossy, otherworldly sheen that’s great for action scenes. The first half or so of the issue is great with lots of action and fighting and stuff blowing up. However, when the focus shifts to heavy emotions, that otherworldly look of the art is a liability, one that distances the reader from the events being depicted, lessening the emotional impact. I’m not sure how much of one there would be with another artist since the writing lacks the necessary depth to be truly affecting, but the art doesn’t help. Even looking at the issue’s first two pages, Choi isn’t the best artist for drawing human faces that look like the characters. If the label for Psylocke didn’t say it was her, I wouldn’t know it, which is true for other characters.
So far, “Second Coming” has mostly been an action-driven story and it’s succeeded as such. There’s been a nice build as each side has its little victories, but this issue looks to offer Bastion’s forces a pretty big win and it doesn’t seem earned — for him or the story. It will be interesting to see where the story goes from here with two thirds of it left.