Pullbox Reviews: Second Coming #6 – Killer Apes, the LAST Last Temptation, & a Veggie Tray…

Extra-sized first season finale, featuring 30 pages of story! Sunstar and Shiela leave Jesus in charge as they go off on their honeymoon. Satan tempts Jesus one last time. Plus! Illustrated prose fiction, humor, and/or poems, and an exclusive preview of writer/creator Mark Russell’s brand new Ahoy title, debuting soon!

Being a nigh invulnerable super man (no relation) could be pretty cool. You’d have all of the awesome powers like flight, super speed & strength… but there are drawbacks. Once you’ve established yourself as the protector of Earth & taken on the role of superhero, the gig really cuts into your time. The pressure that goes along with being that powerful can be pretty intense, and things that many of us might take for granted can create strong feelings of anxiety.

Sunstar gets it. As a being from another planet living on Earth, he’s had to adapt to a certain lifestyle in order to find some degree of balance in his life. One of the things that’s helped him has been his faith in Jesus. He knows that no matter what, Jesus will be there when he’s needed, through thick and thin. Sunstar knows this because he’s been roommates with Jesus for a while now, and he’s a pretty standup guy.

I’m not gonna lie to you. I had my doubts about this title when I first ran across it. It didn’t have anything to do with concerns over sacrilege or blasphemy- between you and me, I really think God has bigger things on his plate than getting mad over a comic book. I just thought it sounded kinda… silly, I guess. I took a look at the cover & judged it to be sort of a cheap shot at organized religion, like so many other media outlets that view anyone with faith as an easy target. With everything else I have going on, the plethora of titles I get passed my way for review consideration, a story about the Son of God crashing at a superhero’s apartment just didn’t sound like a “must read”. Sadly, that’s gotta be the biggest problem for the smaller publishers, getting someone to look at their book in a market that’s increasingly flooded with choices. There are a lot of good books out there, & as a reviewer there’s no way I can get to them all.

But when I find a comic that forces its way onto my reading list, one that stays the course & doesn’t ease up until I give in, one that goes against all sense and reason to get its point across… that’s when I have to stand up and admit to all and sundry, that I was wrong. Not about this being a silly book, because it totally is, in both concept & execution. No, I was wrong about dismissing the idea of Second Coming as a bid for attention through controversy, a comicbook version of clickbait. All silliness aside, this is a damn good book.

In writing his story, co-creator Mark Russell doesn’t take the easy out of making Jesus a hapless stooge. He’s not delusional, nor is he pulling any kind of scam. He really is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, once again living among us to see if things could go any better the second time around (I mean, depending on how you view the Crucifixion, things couldn’t go much worse). Russell is portraying Jesus as a pretty laid back dude, trying to make sense of the daily grind and maybe helping some folk out along the way. He has doubts, He has foibles, and He is doing his level best to get through the day without screwing things up too badly. For that matter, the character of Sunstar- very obviously a spin on Superman- is just about as fully realized and honestly portrayed as I think I’ve ever seen. The opening scene of the issue, a meeting for a superhero support group, shows such subtle cracks in the not-Superman façade that a less than observant reader could skip right over the whole character play. That would be too bad. While the scene plays okay for laughs, skimming across the surface will pass over the details of Sunstar trying to come to grips with the often painful limitations of compromise.

Capturing those finer points on the page, Second Coming co-creator and illustrator Richard Pace is on top of his game. Despite the presence of superheroes in this title, there really isn’t much in the way of heroics. The apprehension of the evil Dr. Simius aside, readers shouldn’t expect a lot of the usual mayhem. Second Coming is more of a character study that puts a focus on people. Sure, Jesus is the Son of God, & Sunstar is the superhero’s superhero, but they’ve got doubts & problems like anyone else. Richard Pace captures all of that in his work, in the subtleties of facial expression, in the quiet beats of panels without dialogue, as the characters react to their world and come to their own realizations about their role in it.

Rounding out this creative team, Leonard Kirk (finisher) & Andy Troy (colorist) are credited with working on the pages featuring Sunstar. There’s an obvious difference in the look of those pages, versus the parts of the issue featuring Jesus, and I love the tone it sets. The pages benefitting from Kirk & Troy’s talents are the closest we come to more typical comicbook action, and their work reflects that. It’s a great way to separate the two distinct stories being told, creating smooth transitions for readers to cross. Finally, Rob Steen has done everything required of a letterer, putting Mark Russell’s scripts to the page without interfering with the art or interrupting the story in any way. In a comicbook with quite a bit of dialogue, it’s a fine line Steen had to walk, and he managed it just fine.

So Second Coming has, by all accounts, had a bit of an uphill road. That’s not surprising, given its subject matter. I’m gonna take a minute here to try and alleviate a bit of the apprehension some readers might feel when approaching a book like this. First and foremost, the character of Jesus Christ in this comic might be the Son of the Almighty, but he’s here on this Earth to live the life of a man. That comes with all of the doubts & self-recriminations the rest of us experience every day. He’s not always sure that he’s doing the right thing, but he does the best that he can with what he has and hopes for the best. If that kind of approach to Jesus bothers you, if the words “blasphemy” & “sacrilege” are your immediate responses to the concept, I can’t do anything about that. You’ve made an active choice to be offended. I can tell you that if Mark Russell & Richard Pace had taken an easier path, if they had just played their story for cheap laughs at the expense of anyone’s beliefs, I would have followed my initial instincts & passed on this book.

Second Coming is a humorous & thoughtful delve into the lives of two men. One is an almighty being from another world living his life among mere mortals, and the other is an Almighty Being from another world living His life among mere mortals. Neither of them have all of the answers they need to get through their very complicated lives. If they did, their actions would lack any meaning or impact because there’s no risk involved in playing life out to a foregone conclusion. If you can live with that idea, I’d put this down as a book well worth looking into.

Final Score: 9

(Unfortunately, we didn’t have any preview pages available at the time this article went live… however, I wanted to show you something, so here are pages from issues 1 & 2, courtesy of ComiXology…)

Issue 1
Issue 2
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