Second Coming was a source of controversy long before its first issue was published. How could it not be? A comic based around the idea of Jesus of Nazareth returning to Earth after 2000 years (give or take) and sharing a two-bedroom apartment with a Superman parody, in an Odd Couple-style comedy where the two argue about the best ways to go about saving humanity? Clearly, this would be a work of total blasphemy that would end with fire falling from the skies, dogs and cats lying with one another and people thinking Jesus was some long-haired hippie who just wanted people to be nice to each other!
While Vertigo canceled the series before the initial launch after a public backlash, Second Coming ultimately saw publication under the Ahoy Comics banner and proved to be far less shocking than the base description suggested. Rather than an attack on organized religion in general and Christianity in specific, Second Coming proved to be a thoughtful examination of how the message of Jesus of Nazareth’s teachings often gets lost in translation. True, Mark Russell presents that message through a God depicted as a loving but distant father who believes in tough love, and a Jesus who is sheltered and overly optimistic, but there is nothing here that goes against the Old or New Testament, even if God does try to drive home the cruelty of practical jokes to one new arrival in Heaven by telling him the paperwork got mixed up and he was supposed to get tossed in the Lake of Fire.
There are some who may be displeased with the idea of God kicking back with a chilled wine at the end of a hard day, declaring that he is done with humanity and lamenting that he’s tried his best to get humans to stop hurting each other and even drowning the planet didn’t stop them. Yet there is nothing in Second Coming that is any more blasphemous than the sections dealing with God and Jesus in the films History of the World, Part I or Bruce Almighty. That puts Russell and his artistic collaborators in good company. Quite honestly, Superman fans are far more likely to take offense at Second Coming and the “punch first, ask questions later” characterization of the hero Sunstar, than Christians will to the book’s depiction of Jesus.
The artwork matches Russell’s script in quality. Richard Pace illustrated the entire series, but subtle differences in inking and coloration coupled with him subtly altering his usual style result in an interesting visual effect that makes it seem as if they had two different artists illustrating the sections of the story set on Heaven and those set on Earth. This is thanks to Leonard Kirk and Andy Troy, who worked on the Earth sequences as inker and colorist, respectively. Pace captures the humor of Russell’s script, while still crafting images that would not look out of place in a traditional superhero book or an Illustrated Bible.
Second Coming is rated 18+ only, and fairly so. This series does not shy away from depicting man’s inhumanity to man or the more adult portions of the Bible, including a fully naked Adam and Eve. This and the occasional profanity are far more likely to upset certain audiences than the adult situations discussed as part of the story, including Sunstar’s difficulties in having a child with his girlfriend, which are implied to be due to her infertility or his, rather than the fact that they’re two different species.
Second Coming, vol. 1
By Mark Russell
Art by Richard Pace, Leonard Kirk, Andy Troy
Ahoy Comics, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: 18+ Only
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NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)
Character Traits: Middle Eastern