“Second Coming” changed everything for the X-Men and that includes “X-Force” being brought into the light.
Written by Various
Illustrated by Various
Colored by Various
Lettered by Various
The 2010 story “Second Coming” was an all encompassing X-Men crossover, the culmination of threads that started back in 2007 with “Messiah Complex,” that hailed the rebirth of the X-Men and mutandum. Marvel’s gone back to that well in one form or another multiple times since then, often to less effect. They’re doing it at this very moment in fact. Structurally “Second Coming” is pretty good for a crossover, these sorts of stories are always a little gangly due to the various creative teams involved. The shift between art teams is rarely smooth, there is a lot of space between David Finch with Matt Banning and Terry and Rachel Dodson. At just over 350 pages “Second Coming” is a little beyond my “X-Force” purview, but the event is important for the series so I wanted to highlight a couple of key scenes.
The X-Men have a lot on their plate during “Second Coming” fighting for their existence from techno-organic threats and their supporters. Which would make it a bad time for X-Force and what it is they do to come out. X-Force comes out in the first issue with some important follow up in the second part of the crossover “Uncanny X-Men” #523. It was nice that this revelation came from the Kyle-Yost team but them not getting to complete that thought was a bit of a bummer. After disrupting an attack by the Sapien League, the Hydra Bobs of Bastion’s conglomeration, Laura Kinney and Wolverine have some aggressive negotiations with the survivors. The old where will the third claw go routine. Except, Laura only has two claws and she plants them firmly through the head of an anonymous League member. There’s a refined but raw quality to Finch and Banning’s line work, the cross hatches create a little too much texture but the overall composition when mixed with Peter Steigerwald’s colors makes the blood red really pop. While it isn’t a splash page, only taking up two-thirds of it, it lands with the impact of one. You need the final panel though to give the moment some depth with an extreme close up on Nightcrawler’s face, the inking does a fantastic job of selling the feeling of horror and revulsion. This moment though was just the climatic finale to the first issue, the real talk comes in the following issue.
While there is a large amount of space between the two art teams, the Dodson’s are the right call to illustrate the scene between Kurt and Scott. There is a tenderness that Finch’s work lacks. After Wolverine comes clean, or brags depending on the read, Kurt demands to talk with Scott. Throughout “X-Force” Scott Summers has been shown to be the somewhat cold tactical leader safely away from the field of combat but effecting the lives of X-Force. It made for easy parallels with Bastion who does much of the same. I’ve never really liked Scott Summers, he always seemed too much of a simple boy scout and you can’t see his eyes. As Kurt demands answers the Dodson’s do a good job with his body language that reveals the contradictions in his actions. He didn’t want to talk about this, much less now, he seemed to think he could get away with it even though he admits it would come out eventually. The Dodson’s do a good job of showing the performance Summers is putting on here as Emma tells him it is time to lie in the bed he made. He posture initially shrinks, until he finds his stern leaders face and tells Kurt “I would absolutely do it again if I had to.” Meanwhile this stoic performance is juxtaposed by the empathy of the elf, as he shuts the dead Leaguer’s eyes. It used to be there was one way of being an X-Man, the Kurt way, but now there are two. Kurt’s and the manipulative, secretive, one embodied by Scott.
After all this, “Second Coming” happens. There is at trip to a bad future with a proto-“Uncanny X-Force,” they lose people along the way – Kurt and Cable are the popular ones but they lose Vanisher as well – and end on a little bit of Hope. Starting with Kyle-Yost and the X-Force business, did a good job of setting the violent tone. Not every art team would be as bloody or gory, but Laura’s pair of claws through a skull set the tone of what people are willing to do to survive.Continued below
The fourteenth and final chapter of “Second Coming” is an anthology book of various creative teams each given about 8 pages to act as an epilogue or setup new things. I’m primarily interested in ‘Chapter 3’ by Kyle and Yost with art by Greg Land, Jay Leisten and Frank Martin. It is the epilogue to their run on “X-Force,” and setups the coming of “Uncanny X-Force.” The strip is an interesting exercise in perspective, where what isn’t shown is as important as what is. In the aftermath of “Second Coming” the original X-Men all have a chat about X-Force with Scott, we don’t see that. Instead the strip is centered around Wolverine as he deals with the death of his friends and revived judgmental looks from his teammates. Greg Land’s art is surprisinly effective in spots, whenever his figures approach full body they look stiff and overly posed but the strip is primarily centered around close ups. Frank Martin’s realistic rendering is awkward in spots and makes things read very human in others.
Logan is in a bit of a regressive state as he mourns. He would gladly go kill more of Bastien’s pawns if it meant saving a few more of them. He also gives up, for now, trying to be a parent-mentor-squad leader to Laura Kinney. Their chat is only two pages, but compositionally the art team do a good job of emphasizing the distance between the two. He tells her to pick her own mission for a change and stop following orders. This would result in the “X-23” series written by Marjorie Liu with various art teams. One of those artists would be Sana Takeda, and they’d give readers “Monstress.” This is the run where Laura Kinney really comes into her own and is worth checking out.
Logan also goes to see Scott on Alcatraz. Scott talks about how the original X-Men looked at him like he was a stranger. The art is less effective in the moment both technically and due to Summer’s character design, there is a stiffness to the both of them overall. Scott wants to put X-Force behind them, be “X-Men” again now that they have Hope. If he’d been closer to the squad or paying attention to James Proudstar he would’ve realized there’s no just being an “X-Man” after “X-Force.” This is a conversation that reads surprisingly better in retrospect as he jokes about the Avengers coming to arrest him for his crimes and the smile on his face when they do it. His involvement in “X-Force” was the main point that sold the revolutionary-extremist streak in Summers after he killed Prof. X in “Avengers vs X-Men.”
Storm was right, there is no making Logan do anything. So he choses to restart “X-Force” with a new squad of hunters and killers and one simple rule “no one can know.” Of all the strips this was by far the coolest tease at what is to come. This new squad would be “Uncanny X-Force” written by Rick Remender and various artists the highlight being Jerome Opeña. “Uncanny X-Force” would be one of my favorite Marvel runs as Remender and the artists explore some of the concepts Kyle and Yost setup about the cost of wetwork and the possibility of redemption.