Second Coming #4
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Richard Pace
Finisher: Leonard Kirk (Sunstar solo pages)
Colorist: Andy Troy (Sunstar solo pages)
Letters: Rob Steen
The last issue covered a solo adventure for both Sunstar and Jesus. Sunstar returned home and learned the harsh lesson that no matter how precious you keep a place and time, it will always end up changing. His sleepy quiet country town (a clear homage to Smallville) now isn’t the “innocent” place it once was. Whether this is from actual change (new sex shops opening) or from his rose colored glasses of his youth blinding him to the imperfections that already exsisted doesn’t matter. The real change is Sunstar seeing how his world isn’t perfect, which plays in nicely with how the world sees him as a symbol of perfection, even though he is also far from it. Jesus ended up being locked away in jail for being honest. In one way you can see how he would look crazy calling himself Jesus, however he was also causing no harm. Just like 2000 years ago Jesus ends up being persecuted for his “word.”
The comic is still separated primarily into 2 parts, one focusing on Sunstar (and other superheroes), and the other on Jesus in prison. There is also a third part that seems to be bringing forward the larger threat and mystery in this comic, one that won’t be discussed as it leans into spoiler territory and is much better to be experienced. This issue returns to the superhero group therapy and the reader gets a better idea of who would make up this universe’s “Justice League.” There is a comical version of Batman called Night Justice, whose only power is his Boomerang and five billion dollars. There is also a female POC hero that seems to be the only one with any clue of what is going on, as she rightly guesses that Jesus is in jail (even though no one else follows her on this idea). While this is going on Jesus befriends Larry, who is in jail for eating pinecones. As per usual in this comic the Jesus half of the tale covers some interesting theological areas like the idea of miracles, the crucifixion, and the warping of Christ’s message. This comic is a simple straightforward story the couches some really important thoughts into it.
I am extremely impressed with this comic. Mark Russell has written some really great material before, but this is far and away his best work. The comedy in the Sunstar half of the book balances the really heavy material in the Jesus half. Starting with Sunstar does a great job of world building and you get a sense of what this universe is like. Night Justice is a brilliant take on Batman and it is great seeing he feel inadequate next to Sunstar, even though he is a billionaire. Every hero is flawed but completely relatable and likable. Even though the material is silly and fantastic it is still grounded, an amazing feat through Russell’s writing. Again, the theology in this book is handled with care and respect. Jesus explains why he doesn’t use miracles anymore to get people to believe in him. It is something I thought as a reader and his reasoning makes perfect sense. Once miracles come into play that is all people will talk about. Suddenly the word of Christ isn’t important as people would rely on him to turn water into wine for a party trick. As someone who grew up in the faith, this hit hard. Often lessons are surrounded by how amazing Jesus was with his ability to raise the dead, cure the blind, or feed thousands with a few loaves of bread and fish. Yet, his real contribution to the world was his messages of love and social justice. We can no longer cure diseases with a touch like Jesus did, but we can make lasting change in the world by following his messages of love and acceptance. This simple thought Russell brings forward is an extremely intelligent take on the theology of the New Testament. Of course, the comic goes into how we have perverted his message and use it for hate instead of love. The Nazi gang that attacks Jesus (for being a non-white immigrant) is called The White CHRISTIAN Brotherhood. Mark Russell has created a figure in Jesus as being a symbol of love that is inspirational, and stands in stark contrast to how the world treats him. The most important message taught in this book that loving those that have something to offer you is simple horse trading, we need to love and understand those that offer us nothing in return. I could easily see this book being used as a tool for teaching and respecting the Christian faith.
Leonard Kirk and Ricahrd Pace share art duties again, and it continues to work perfectly. Pace handles the Jesus pages, and his rougher drawings and darker colors help carry the mood of those pages. Jesus’ red robes are one of the only color pops on the page and helps show him as a bright light in the darkness. Kirk’s clean lines, and fairly realistic cartooning, really helps carry the Sunstar pages. I’ve written about how the impossible and realistic meet in this part of the book, and Kirk is able to balance these tones. It is hard to go on about the art any further than this. It is such a consistent book and having multiple art teams only enhances the story and does not create any unbalance (which is a threat in most comics that try this).