By Zack Quaintance — An incredibly reductive (if necessary) summary of the new series from Ahoy Comics, Second Coming, is that it’s a satire about Jesus returning to earth and becoming roommates with Superman (or close enough). This was, perhaps, the elevator pitch, with additions in the room to explain that the book is a look at how modern society—specifically modern Christians—have lost site of Jesus’ original, more subversive teachings about forgiveness, empathy, understanding, peace, etc.
It’s an interesting concept, one that peaked my interest while at the same time igniting a flurry of seemingly-manufactured outrage on the Christian right from folks who hadn’t yet read the comic. In fact, no one had read the comic when this wave of outrage (which included a petition and predictable coverage by Fox News) was directed at this comic book, months before publication. The outrage was strong enough to essentially move Second Coming from its first home—DC/Vertigo—to Ahoy, a smaller and more agile publisher that already traded in the type of uber smart satire found in this book. The move was outwardly amicable, with the creators rationally and patiently explaining that doing so would allow them to operate with less attention and no censorship whatsoever.
Now, the comic is actually here, and it might just be the most important comic this year. Let’s get into why (which, of course, we will...it would be absurd to just end the review now). On its most surface level, Second Coming #1 is hilarious, and in a really calm and kind way. It doesn’t poke fun at Christ, not even a little bit. Christ is, actually, the straight man here, the hero who always does the right thing, operates with divine care and kindness (even more so than his Old Testament-rooted Father), and is easily the most relatable figure for the audience. No, Second Coming’s humor is almost observational, in that it finds laugh through the juxtaposition of how a message that started out so pure—treat others how you’d like to be treated!—is now so messy and fuzzy and at its worst corrupted. To be sure, Second Coming is also rich with irreverent one-liners, but the most memorable laughs stem from what i just discussed above.
On a craft-level, Second Coming #1 is also an impeccably-executed comic, one that uses its distinctive joint artists—Richard Pace and Leonard Kirk—to differentiate between scenes set in the ethereal divine realm from those set on Earth (Pace does heaven, Kirk does earth with Andy Troy colors). The end product is rich and dynamic, serving the satirical tone of the book well.
So, that’s all well and good, and I’d have a hard time imagining anyone finding this comic anything but captivating. What has lingered with me in the few days since I first read it, however, was the powerful effect of its themes. Second Coming #1 reminded me of when religion was Christianity was first explained to me in my youth (I was raised with the religion in my home and at school). It was a pretty simple equation for me back then: Jesus was the best guy ever, he always did the nicest possible thing, and we should act exactly like him.
Second Coming depicts this idea primarily in the nascent relationship between Jesus and his new roommate, our Superman analog. Superman is not a bad guy, at least not on a surface level. He doesn’t twirl a mustache or cackle or have any blatantly misguided notions. He acts for the most part like the Superman we’ve always known: he finds wrongdoing, he rushes to the scene, he incapacitates the bad guys with his fists. Simple and familiar.
Where the satire begins is when Christ joins him and starts doing things like questioning whether a punch in the face is the best course of action for the criminal. He, in effect, is an immediate and persuasive advocate for peace. It’s the best kind of argument one can make through fiction, one that makes organic sense in the story while making the audience take stock of what they typically root for and why. The end result is a question (all good fiction asks rather than tells, in my humble opinion…), a question that uses Christianity as a jumping off point but is more so about societal values as a whole: have we twisted the right thing to mean doing what’s best and safest for us, losing sight of what it means to be kind and empathetic?
It is to me the most urgent question that one can be asking in the tumultuous year of 2019.
Overall: Hilarious and smart satire that uses everything from Christianity to superheroism to ask if our societal values are truly in the right place. Second Coming #1 might just be the most important comic this year. 9.8/10
Second Coming #1
Writer: Mark Russell
Artists: Richard Pace and Leonard Kirk (finisher Earth pages)
Colorist: Andy Troy (Earth pages)
Letterer: Rob Steen
Publisher: Ahoy Comics
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.