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Roundtable Review: ‘X-Men: Second Coming’ #1

ComicsAlliance writers Laura Hudson, Chris Sims, Caleb Goellner, Jason Michelitch, Chris Murphy, and David Uzumeri sit down for a roundtable discussion about the newly released “X-Men: Second Coming” #1. WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS FOLLOW.

Laura: Does anyone want to do a quick recap for anyone who hasn’t been following along in the X-titles?

David: Yeah, I’ve been reading the whole thing. “Second Coming” is the third part of a trilogy that started back in 2006 with “Messiah CompleX.” In short, it’s the story of how mutants got their groove back following the magical endangered species status forced on them by Wanda Maximoff at the climax of “House of M.” In “Messiah CompleX,” Hope was born and Cable left with her to the future. Their story continued in the frankly criminally underrated “Cable” ongoing series, where we’ve seen Hope go from toddler to teenager. “Cable” crossed over with “X-Force” for the second part, “Messiah War,” which was basically a ’90s lovefest, with Cable and Stryfe and Archangel and Apocalypse and everything in a dystopian far future.

Laura: And now Cable and Hope are coming back to the present, except — why is this comic starting a year ago?

Jason: It’s just a passage of time thing.

Laura: Why? Why jump back a year ago to show us the blown-up mansion, and then immediately fast-forward a year to the present, where the mansion is still exactly as blown up?

David: Yeah, that’s… that’s mystifying, actually.

Jason: Laura, take time to appreciate the passage of the seasons. The falling of the leaves. The drifting snow.

Chris Sims: How long do you think it took to plaster the H.A.M.M.E.R. logo over the old O*N*E logo on the fence outside the X-Mansion? Hang on… Has H.A.M.M.E.R. actually been disbanded without ever getting an explanation of what it stands for?

David: I don’t think there ever was an explanation, in or outside of the universe.

Caleb: “Hammer-time and making much emcee rappage.”

Chris Sims
: Okay then, I’m doing it now: “Homeland Area Mass Military Emergency Response.” Boom. Call me, Marvel.

David: And David Finch gets to draw rubble, his favorite thing in the entire world.

Chris Sims: I actually inked some X-Men rubble once. True story, I knew the guy who was inking “Excalibur” after Morrison’s “New X-Men,” Greg Adams, and me and a friend went over to his house during one lunchbreak and inked some rocks in Genosha. It’s harder than it looks.

Jason
: Ha ha, I love Namor’s question about why Meld matters. That’s basically every reader asking that question. And Cyclops is Marvel telling the fanboy to shut up and care about the minor characters.

Chris M: How many of you can actually look at that picture and go, “Oh, I know which one is Meld”?

Chris Sims: Looks like he won’t be melding… anymore.

David
: It’s weird, Cyclops is a schizophrenic character due to writers right now. Kyle/Yost have him as kind of a dick while Matt Fraction or Mike Carey’s take is hard-edged but way more sympathetic. Or Zeb Wells’s, even.

Chris Sims: I do like that we had a third stringer get killed for cheap emotional impact without actually having to see it. I mean, it’s not a huge step forward, but I’ll take it.

David
: I actually think he probably bit it in “X-Force” this week. Not that I can tell, because the art is so damn dark. It’s like “Doom III: The Comic.”

Laura: Also, I’m not a big fan of Cyclops screaming RAWR and blowing an enormous hole in the building because he’s pissed off, like some five-year-old with poor impulse control. It’s such a lazy way of conveying emotion.

Chris M
: I do like how he does the Howard Dean yell, though.

Laura: Remember, the best way to deal with negative feelings is through catastrophic property damage.

Chris Sims: That scene would’ve been so much better if Cyclops hadn’t blasted that hole in the wall. Like if he’d just had to sit there for a moment bottling everything up just so he could get through the day, even though it’s tearing him apart inside that he’s actually witnessing the end of his race with no way to stop it, but he has to maintain control, and then make himself cowboy up about it. Instead, Angel’s just got to write another check to Damage Control Inc.

Laura: Seriously, shooting your incredibly powerful energy beams through buildings whenever you feel like it and still being widely considered one of the most responsible members of your species is a great argument for the Superhero Registration Act.

Chris Sims: I gotta say though: I have never seen the Smiley Face Mandroids before. I have no idea what they’ve been in. But I friggin’ love those guys. Look at ‘em! Happy Mandroids!

Jason: Oh “mandroids” isn’t, like, a term of art?

Chris Sims: No, the Mandroids were robot suits invented by Tony Stark for S.H.I.E.L.D. that were used to guard the prisoners at the Vault. Until Tony went nuts, jacked up their technology, and then faked his own death to get out of the legal consequences of dropping a mountain on Stingray for no reason. Yet another argument for the SHRA.

Chris M: Also, wait, Cable has several dozen enormous guns. How come he only throws Hope a tiny pistol?

David: She’s a weak girl, duh.

Chris Sims: To be fair, he’s giving her the one gun he has that actually looks like a human being could use it. Cableguns are not for non-Cable characters.

Jason: I so want the stream of new groups of people shooting at Cable and Hope to not ever end. “All Star Batman and Robin” style, four issues later there’s still just commando squads in different funny outfits showing up one after the other

David: I’m pretty sure that will actually be this event.

Chris M
: So, what, like “The Warriors” except cross-country and with guys in robot suits with guns?

Chris Sims: Oh my God, I want to read that.

Chris M: Because, yes, that sounds incredible.

Chris Sims: I want to WRITE that.

Chris Sims: HOPE AND CABLE BUS TO FREEDOM GUNS BLAZIN’ WORLD TOUR 2010

Chris M: I would buy that t-shirt and push other people out of the way to buy it.

Jason: I would also like this story to end at Coney Island.

David: The so
licitations for later issues involve time portals to Days of Future Past, so I think it’s actually just going to be busloads of different types of Sentinels and anti-mutant racists all trying to take Cable and Hope down in a grand-scale game of Wile E. Coyote vs. Road Runner.

Chris Sims: Are we at the scene on the highway yet? Because this is what’s crazy: Nightcrawler flips out on X-23 for killing a dude, when there’s a two page spread of the X-Men just straight up murdering chumps like it ain’t no thing. I mean, Wolverine is stabbing a guy in the heart. There’s blood and everything. What changed in the past 30 seconds, Kurt?

David
: I figured Laura [X-23] was the only one Kurt saw killing.

Chris M: At the big spread where they teleport in, Psylocke is right next to Nightcrawler sticking a sword through a roof and into a guy.

Chris Sims: Yeah, and he probably noticed it when Colossus literally threw a car into the middle of a highway full of other cars. Again: This is a scene where the X-Men have absolutely no regard for the lives of anyone other than themselves.

David: That seems to be a big theme these days.

Chris Sims: Three pages of this and I’M ready to vote for Senator Kelly. Maybe that’s what’s going on? Maybe they’re flipping the script on the X-Men so that they’re actually the villains, and all the bad guys from the ’90s that show up at the end and have to put their differences aside to deal with the legitimate threat are actually the heroes. It sort of falls apart when “their differences” are just different shades of racism, but I think that’s the interpretation I’m sticking with.

David: That’d make for a pretty bizarre post-event status quo.

Laura: Also, Cyclops kind of has no regard for the lives of the X-Men, either. He admits that he’s seen absolutely no proof that Hope is special or useful in any way and that he is basically choosing to believe it out of desperation and then tells everyone it’s time to die for her.

Chris Sims: You’re right, Laura. They’re basically risking their lives and killing people based on the word of a guy who flipped out and blew a hole in the wall of HIS OWN HOUSE ten minutes ago.

Chris Sims: “Oh my God, Scott, Humanity’s turned against us and labeled us as criminals! Again!” “No kidding, Emma. That’s what happens to people who form murderous paramilitary organizations that try to secede from the government.”

Jason: So the X-Men are a faith-based paramilitary execution squad that crosses borders and disregards the needs of other nations? Has there been any talk of the X-Men as Israel a la Willingham’s Fables? Like, direct talk from the creators, not speculation from readers.

Chris M: Usually that’s more Magneto’s thing, the Israel comparison. That Scott’s using that kind of language now is telling.

Jason: Well, I thought that setting up Utopia and the Summers Doctrine or whatever was supposed to usher in a new, meaner, more look-out-for-number-mutant X-Men.

Laura: Does that make the X-Men the Mossad?

Jason: Yes? At least in this analogy.

Laura: Has there been any discussion of Hope being Jean Grey reincarnated?

David
: Textually, not really, but basically everyone ever thinks it’s Jean. Or a reincarnation or spiritual reawakening or something. She’s almost DEFINITELY the Phoenix, like, I’d put down a hundo on it. They did a whole “History of the Phoenix” free digital comic a week ago and everything.

Chris Sims: Wait wait wait wait wait wait WAIT.

Chris Sims: So: Scott Summers, who once married his dead girlfriend’s clone and then left her when his girlfriend came back to life (but not before fathering his son who came back from the future to hang out with him, albeit a different future than his daughter that came back from the future to hang out with him) is now trying to get to his son from the future because he’s babysitting a ten year-old possessed by the alien that used to be his girlfriend? Is that about right?

Laura: Yes. So is there any possible way for this event to end besides Phoenix as a reverse M-Day deus ex machina?

David: Is it even a deus ex machina at this point?

Laura: Yes?

David
: I mean, that has to come totally from offstage. This is — it is screaming THIS IS HOW IT WILL END.

Chris Sims: I think when you’re talking about something that was started when a woman with powers that nobody bothered to define in 40 years decided to flip out over her imaginary kids that were once sold to a Hollywood producer that used them for hands, the term “deus ex machina” doesn’t really cover it. In that context, it’s just a perfectly logical sequence of events.

Caleb: So… Bastion’s the bad guy, huh? Didn’t Iceman beat him last time?

Jason: And Bastion is made from Master Mold? Master Mold is such a better name! Why did he change it?

Chris Sims: Maybe he’s going to combine names. Master Bastion.

Chris Sims
: AND THAT’S IT, THAT’S THE BEST JOKE I CAN MAKE. GOODNIGHT EVERYBODY.

David: Yeah. This is a really really really really really really really really really REALLY lame last page reveal. Largely because he was in every piece of promotional material. Rule #1 of event planning: the first issue should have ONE moment that’s at least SUPPOSED to catch everybody by surprise.

Chris M: I’m surprised they think we’ll be excited by Bastion. So there’s that.

Laura: I guess someone besides Nightcrawler could die. That could still be a surprise.

Chris Sims: They’re really setting Nightcrawler up as the odd man out that they can go “We should have listened to him and not stabbed people in the face! We should stop doing that and have a… HEROIC AGE!”

David: That Cyclops/Nightcrawler moment was really nice, and it has me 100% convinced Nightcrawler is going to die.

Chris Sims: I’d like to think that it’s a fakeout. And not just because I like Nightcrawler, which I do.

David: This was an underwhelming opening but personally, I’m sticking with it – I’m a big fan of all of the other titles, especially Wells’s excellent “New Mutants,” so I think “Second Coming” in general is gonna be quite good. And I’m interested to see if Kitty is totally sidelined for this. I mean, other than a few panels of Colossus going I SURE WISH KITTY WAS HERE and MY LOVE GOES OUT TO YOU MY KATYA.

Caleb: I’m just not too stoked on what the X-Men are up against in this opening salvo. It takes the whole team to take out a few guys with guns in vans? We’ve seen Wolverine fight his way through 40,000 armies of ninjas.

Chris Sims: Yeah — any one of those guys should be able to take out six guys in vans. Even Pixie.

Chris Sims: I’m also pretty sure this is going to end with a line like “after years, we have Hope again.” Which, let’s be real here, is just awful. Like, it’s unavoidable at this point. Nobody wants to put that in a comic. But they have to.

Laura: Well, in this issue we already got this line:

Chris Sims: I love the X-Men as a concept and I really like most of the characters, but I feel like the best stuff comes when guys aren’t in this big state of crossover. “House of M” leads to “Decimation” leads to “Messiah CompleX” leads to “Utopia” leads to “Nation X” leads to “Second Coming,” and the best stuff in all of that was Fraction doing the X-Club fighting an atomic mutant super-lizard that definitely was not Godzilla due to legal reasons.

Laura: I also think it’s interesting that they’ve been very up front about what the Heroic Age will mean for the Avengers and Thor and everyone else but there hasn’t been much talk about the involvement of the X-Men in all that. They could certainly mention the X-Men in the same breath as the Heroic Age without giving away spoilers.

David
: Good point, actually. Maybe they won’t BE heroic?

Laura: Honestly, if I wasn’t already a fan the X-Men would actually seem kind of scary and unrelatable here. Being an X-Man doesn’t seem all that great anymore, and that was one of the things that really drew a lot of people (including me) in over the years.

David: Yeah, this really trades off of nostalgia, doesn’t it? You’re supposed to care about Cyclops because you always cared about Cyclops. I dunno if it’s Kyle/Yost or “Second Coming” itself though. I mean, Kyle/Yost have always had this sort of overriding THIS IS THE COST OF BEING DIFFERENT theme.

Laura:
That’s always been a big part of the X-Men, but I feel like they used to be able to communicate the struggles they faced while still remembering that they had awesome powers that were sometimes fun and they could occasionally play baseball games or make out without constantly grimacing or crying.

Chris Sims: Yeah, even by X-Men standards, which are based in being an outsider in a world that hates and fears you™, these stories have just been grim. “Our race is dying, so let’s go kill people” grim.

David: There’s really no more of that Hogwarts magic at … it’s not Xavier’s anymore, I dunno. The Summers Academy of Moral Ambiguity.

Chris Sims: There was a real sense of mutants being the future and having to figure out how to restart society that was totally wiped off the board by “House of M.” I guess you could make a case for it saying that it’s a nice change, switching up the theme of “the mutants are the future of humanity” to “the mutants themselves have no future unless they act to save it,” but man. Grim stuff.

Laura: I remember reading the “X-Men” comics and feeling this sense of progressivism in them — like, of course mutants were going to be the future and ultimately society would have to figure out how to integrate them, just like other minorities, after enough time passed.

David: Now it’s like, if mutantkind is lucky, they will grow enough to be in concentration camps within 40 years! VICTORY!

Chris Sims: When you put it in a social context like that, Laura, it really does feel like a weird regression that’s done just to keep the franchise going. Like after forty years, no real progress has been made in this minority not being oppressed. There’s still the same guys who want to lock them up. Which again, I guess is because as depressing as it is to think it, there’s always going to be a group for the X-Men to symbolize.

Laura
: But I mean, they obviously aren’t helping themselves if they’re going around stabbing people on highways. I’d be a lot more scared of them now as an everyday person in the Marvel U than back when Professor X was doing PR about peaceful coexistence every five minutes.

Chris Sims: Yeah, at least you knew Magneto was the bad guy. Now Magneto’s bringing intangible bullets back to Earth and one of the Avengers is stabbing a guy on a highway while he’s driving at 65 MPH.

Caleb
: Maybe that’s going to be the lesson of this arc. “In our quest to be X-Men, we forgot what it’s like to be… Men!”

Chris Sims: I basically want to smother you with a pillow right now, Caleb. (Although I think you might be right.)

Laura
: Maybe it will be the Return of the Dream. And Professor X’s Giant Floating Head.

Caleb: Maybe Scott will be injured and have to sit in a wheelchair and shave his head.

Chris Sims: That would be fantastic. And he has to send messages with his eyebeams. In morse code.

Laura: Just non-stop blowing out walls.

Chris Sims: T-O-M-E-M-Y-X-M-E-N

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