By Kevin Mahadeo
Hope comes to the mutants of the Marvel Universe this spring in the most figurative and literal sense as the now-teenaged mutant messiah returns to present day, sparking an X-Men crossover event.
The Second Coming saga serves as the third and final chapter in the "messiah trilogy," which began with Messiah Complex in 2007 and continued with last summer's Messiah War, and centers on the mysterious Hope, the first mutant born since the decimating events of M-Day. Similar to the format of the two previous parts of the story, Second Coming begins with a one-shot and continues through UNCANNY X-MEN, X-FORCE, X-MEN: LEGACY and NEW MUTANTS on a chapter-by-chapter basis before wrapping in a special finale.
"Everyone has been wondering who is this girl, is she worth all this, what does she represent," says UNCANNY writer Matt Fraction. "Everyone is going to get a chance to find that out definitively throughout the course of the storyline: who Hope is and what she is capable of will be revealed. Somebody has it right and somebody has it wrong."
Hope's return sends multiple fractures throughout the dwindling mutant population, however, no mutant feels the pressure more than the leader of species, Scott Summers, who has dedicated himself to the protection of the child and allowed Cable to take her to the future in order to insure her safety. With the girl's return, Cyclops finally finds out if his unwavering hope in Hope pays off.
"A lot of this story is really about faith," comments X-FORCE co-writer Chris Yost. "Cyclops has gambled everything on this girl, this one baby. In a massive leap of faith, he said, 'Cable, take her. We're going to hold out until you get back.' Not knowing anything about this girl, he gambled the entire future of his species on her. So, a large part of this book will be discussions on faith. What does this girl mean, what have we done. You're going to see all those questions play out."
Fraction shares a similar sentiment toward Cyclops' commitment to Hope as the savior of his species and calls the girl's return "put up or shut up time" for the X-Man. However, the writer points out that, while Scott leads the team, Hope's second coming affects much more than just the beliefs of one single mutant.
"[Cyclops] is Derek Jeter on the Yankees," says Fraction. "Jeter might have a great night, but there's still a bunch of other guys out there on the field with him. He's the team captain, but there are a lot of guys on a deep bench and this is a very big game, to extend the baseball metaphor uncomfortably."
The members of X-Force were the last present day mutants to see Hope when they traveled to the future during Messiah War. As for their part in the current crossover, Yost and co-writer Craig Kyle hint that the team serves as a defense against those out to hurt or even kill the mutant species' last chance at a fruitful future.
"Shockingly, when Hope comes back it doesn't necessarily go as well as everyone has hoped," deadpans Yost. "So amazingly enough, there is
|Teaser art by David Finch|
While many question Hope's intentions and purpose, LEGACY writer Mike Carey says that the recently returned Rogue finds herself in a rather unique position, as the Southern Belle's power give her a certain edge when it comes to finding out other people's personal information and the truth behind a their motivations.
"[Rogue] can find out directly what Hope is capable of, the nature of her powers and, to put it bluntly, her spirit," says Carey. "So that's an issue that comes up in the course of the crossover and is resolved. Maybe not in the way you'd expect. There's also the fact that Cyclops has appointed Rogue as the guardian angel of the young mutants, the last generation of homo superior. Now there's one extra mutant in that category."
The event also brings into play a number of X-Men villains, most notably Bastion. In actuality an evolved form of the super-sentinel Nimrod, Bastion seeks to destroy all of mutantkind, and the mechanical monstrosity views the return of Hope as his means of finally hammering in that last nail in the species' coffin. Second Coming ties together a number of threads from the character's current machinations in the pages of X-FORCE, finally bringing into bloom the seeds writers Kyle and Yost have been laying since the book's launch.
"There is something about a very calculated, efficient and uncluttered villain who has a very strong agenda and doesn't have any weaknesses that will allow them to trip up their own plan or emotions that would make them pause at a moment of success," says Kyle. "[Bastion] is a true threat. He is very cold and calculating. He is a machine that has been designed to wipe out mutantkind and this is the perfect moment."
"The X-Men will be facing a lot of their worst nightmares in this story," adds Carey. "Bastion hasn't come alone; in fact, since he believes he's fighting a war, he's assembled an army and you'll see some very familiar faces in the front ranks. Meanwhile, on the side of the angels, expect to see all the mutants who've gathered on Utopia playing their part. And also some surprises."
Despite the varied and somewhat fractured reactions of the X-Men and the schemes of the villains involved in the crossover, Yost point out the considerations of one of the most important characters in the story-someone whose thoughts and feelings may mean more than anyone else's:
"You always talk about what everyone else's reaction to [Hope] is-what is her reaction to everyone else? What is her reaction to shoulder this burden? Now she's old enough to understand exactly what's going on. This is a life that nobody should have thrust on them. What she's experiencing is a very specific part of the story. You look at her life and how horrible it is, I would think I'd want my life to be different. People have so many expectations of her. How does she meet them and how does she defy them? I think a lot of people are going to be surprised."
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