By Mark Russell, Richard Pace, Leonard Kirk, Andy Troy, Rob Steen
Second Coming #1 has been called blasphemous. It was shooed away from Vertigo (rest in peace) because of excessive trolls who couldn’t handle the concept of religious satire existing. Mark Russell, notoriously sharp-tongued series writer, shrugged the news off and reassured fans that his comic would get into readers’ hands through a new publisher, Ahoy Comics. On July 10, just a few weeks after Vertigo closed its doors, Second Coming #1 hits shelves with the shiny new Ahoy stamp. Now it would be ridiculous to say that any single comic’s existence could save a publisher. Nothing can be that good. But Russell’s latest work, potentially his best thus far, along with stunning art by Imaginary Fiends’ cover artist Richard Pace genuinely makes you question that notion. It is excellent. It is unexpected and it is important.
The quick and dirty of the premise: God and Jesus disagree on how to be deities. God takes a liking to a Superman stand-in. Jesus returns to Earth to learn about humans.
Ironically, those calling Second Coming blasphemous couldn’t be farther from the truth. Throughout the first two thirds of this number one, Russell sets up the foundation of his satire via the juxtaposition of God and his only child, Jesus Christ. God, the Old Testament curmudgeon of an asshole (okay, maybe it’s a little blasphemous), shows his contradictions when it comes to loving humanity versus how he treats actually treats them. Jesus, on the other hand, having spent time with humans, empathizes with them and understands their struggles. Christ’s philosophies butt up against his Father’s, which repositions the book’s attitude. Having only read about the series or heard only what devout evangelicals have to say about Second Coming #1, you might expect a brutal slasher on Christianity; I’m here to say you’d be wrong. It’s made blatantly clear that Russell’s script is a struggle between the good and bad parts of Christianity. Like all good satire, Russell doesn’t just point and laugh at an issue. He examines it and proposes how it can change.
Although Russell’s concepts and execution alone are enough to sell this book, Richard Pace’s work on art is just as convincing. His lines are reminiscent of a Frank Quitely book, adding detail through lots of thin ink lines. Across the board, Pace makes Second Coming #1 feel old and valuable, almost like (bear with me here) it’s a religious text. Pace’s illustrations somehow evoke kids’ religious books and superhero books at the same time. Colorist Andy Troy helps there as well, employing a color palette that looks especially faded even on digital. Just like it was probably intended to, it feels as if you’re reading something you shouldn’t be; like it’s been wrongfully blacklisted as a banned book but is actually making some really good points.
Second Coming #1 is not only a valuable piece of insight on Christianty by someone on the inside, it’s one of the best debut issues in recent memory. Mark Russell, Richard Pace, Leonard Kirk, Andy Troy and Rob Steen have somehow put together a flawless comic. Vertigo could never have been saved by any single title; but Ahoy Comics stands now firmly in the indie realm as one to keep in the pull list.