After a skip week, "Second Coming" gets back on track for its final act, as X-Force arrives in the future, Cyclops struggles to hold the fort inside Bastion's containment sphere, and the Avengers and Fantastic Four team up with the X-Club to bring down the barrier separating the X-Men (and most of San Francisco) from the rest of the world.
So far, "Second Coming" has mainly been an exercise in raising the stakes. Each new chapter backs the X-Men further into the corner. This issue continues that trend, with their hopes for the survival of the entire mutant species now riding on X-Force's success in what has been charitably termed a suicide mission.
Some of the plot beats are a little clunky, however. Having sent X-Force into the future with "no way back", this issue now establishes that the time portal spilling out Nimrod Sentinels can transport five units at a time. And there are six people in X-Force. It doesn't take a genius to see the plot mechanics whirring along here. At least there is some tension over who will be the unlucky team member without a ticket home, although the smart money's on Cable at this point.
Meanwhile, in the present, the mystery of Hope gets a little more attention as she apparently manifests Cyclops' power. It's fair to say that any big revelations about Hope probably won't come until the final couple of chapters, but I'm enjoying the subtle teases and hints about what her secret might be.
Fraction's installments of "Second Coming" have been a little sketchy, even by the middling standards he's set for his run so far. This issue actually stands as one of the strongest chapters yet, perhaps helped by the knowledge that the end is within sight. The cameos from the Marvel Universe's bigger heroes are welcome, whether or not they get anything done in the long run. It's always tempting to ask where the Avengers are when a big threat faces a major US city, so when the answer is "right here," it's hard not to enjoy the sense of scale and importance that applies to a story, if only for the sake of a couple of scenes.
The only real problem with the story is one that has plagued the crossover for a few chapters now, and that's the comparative ease with which the Nimrod sentinels are being dispatched. Time was, a single one could fight a whole team of X-Men to a standstill. These days, Namor is taking out three by himself. Admittedly, recent chapters did attempt to show that fighting Nimrods was not without danger, but at this point they're as generic as any other form of Sentinel, and it's hard to keep the threat feeling particularly desperate when that's the case.
Nonetheless, this is a strong return to form for both Fraction and the event in general. After a floundering middle act, there's a strong sense of purpose again, and a lot of plot threads waiting to be picked up on. Once again, I find myself eager to see where things will end up when the dust settles.