Ever since “Second Coming” began, people have been wondering whether Hope is actually a reincarnation of Jean Grey, a character last seen occupying some kind of nebulous space between realities. After all, if anyone has the power to undo M-Day, surely she can? In this issue, as the crossover draws closer to its eventual conclusion, readers everywhere were stunned to learn that Hope… might still be Jean Grey. Or maybe not. It really isn’t clear.
Of course, it seems likely that the question will get answered one way or the other in the next issue. Hope’s actions at the climax of this issue heavily suggest that there is a connection to Jean or the Phoenix force. She does manifest the signature Phoenix firebird, but then she also manifests the powers of several other mutants at the same time. More importantly, the X-Men, themselves, seem to think they’ve got it figured out (particularly Emma, who is shown making the connection in a brilliantly understated way). It seems like in only a few day’s time, we’ll know for sure.
One way Hope certainly isn’t like Jean, though, is in her attitude towards Cyclops. The story has pitted her against the current leader of mutantkind more than once so far, and their frosty relationship isn’t helped by the fate of Cable. Without wanting to sound too smug, you didn’t have to be a genius to see that Cable’s days were numbered, and this issue finally calls in his number, punches his ticket and kicks his bucket. Of all the deaths we’ve seen in Second Coming, though, his is undoubtedly the one that feels most genuinely integral to the story, and Kyle and Yost pull it off well.
Choi and Oback, however, struggle a little with the material. Although their glossy, highly-rendered approach leaves individual panels looking like gorgeous paintings, there’s little in the way of emotion or movement. Great artwork doesn’t necessarily mean great comics, and there’s still room for improvement in how the pair’s artwork carries a story.
For their part, Kyle and Yost largely pull things together nicely, writing the conclusion they surely had in mind when the crossover began as Hope finally sorts out Bastion once and for all. Slightly less convincing, though, is quite how X-Force made it back to the present. That Cable made it through the flesh-incinerating portal by letting the T-O virus convert him into a fully technological being, I can see. Quite how that allowed the rest of the team through the portal is less clear to me. Nor how the team of six managed to make it back when the portal’s limit was clearly shown to be five “units” at a time. Nor, indeed, why Cable then blows up when all is said and done. It reads a little too much like a scene hastily rewritten to provide a more satisfying emotional conclusion, but since it doesn’t entirely succeed there, either, I’m forced to ask what went wrong.
In fairness, “X-Force” does provide the big story beats that the audience needed to see, and it does so with obvious confidence. The problem is that it does so at the expense of the smaller details.