In 2012, a 33 year old former CIA officer put out a book and not just any book, a book about superheroes. Next this former spy turned writer moved on to writing the monthly DC Comics title “Grayson” in 2014 with Tim Seeley. In 2015 things really took off for this writer, he started writing a revival of “The Omega Men” in June for DC Comics then in November he began working on “Vision” for Marvel. His name is Tom King and he is possibly one of the best writers in the comic world at this moment. His 12 issue arc on “Omega Men” was recently released in trade paperback form, so what the hell let’s review it.
Some have called the recently ended revival of “The Omega Men” DC’s answer to the Guardians Of The Galaxy, others call it a modern space epic. Some call the story to be the only redeeming part of the failure known as “DC You,” but anyone who has read all 12 issues of Tom King’s run will tell you it’s nothing short of a classic.
I don’t expect anyone who reads these posts to be a super fan of comics like myself. So here is a bit of background info: Kyle Rayner is a Green Lantern invented in 1994 by Ron Marz and Darryl Banks, who used to be an artist. He got his ring by accident (for anyone unfamiliar with comics, this is an oddity) , now he’s a White Lantern (which means he’s hot shit.)
The Omega Men are a team of rebels from the Vega system (which I guess makes them a team of Vegans) who were invented in 1981 by Marv Wolfman and Joe Staton. They fight against the corruption and tyranny of the Citadel, and while they do share some similarities with Guardians Of The Galaxy this is a team willing to commit acts of terror. Yet, neither Rayner nor the Omega Men are known for being breeding grounds for commentaries on our foreign policy.
From the classic view the hero of story is Kyle Rayner, yet he spends a good deal of the story line as more of a sick puppy than a the key needed to end the war between the Alphas and the Omegas. Yet you absolutely believe Rayner has the power to “save” everyone. And every time he’s forced to into inaction it hurts not only the character but the reader as well. The Omega Men are not bad people, but they are more than willing to let people die and beyond a doubt have committed horrible acts before.
Almost all have corrupted morals, getting thousands of people executed as punishment for their crimes along the way. They may have blood on their hands, but they rarely open the wound. Any comic can ask if so or so is really good. A truly great comics asks you to question not only the actions of the characters, but of yourself along the way. Which is exactly what King does throughout the tale of Rayner and the Omega Men.
The genius of the book is that it manages to be a rewarding read for long time comics readers and yet still is written in a way that anyone can pick up the book. In fact the only bit of information needed to read the book is that Kyle Rayner is the White Lantern and that makes him important. In this sense, yes “Omega Men” is a little like “Guardians Of The Galaxy” in that appeal can be reached without an already existing audience of die hard fans. Yet the Omega Men are most likely never going to be jammed into any pointless “Event Of The Week” story like the Guardians seemed destined to do over and over again.
Ultimately this a book that goes beyond being good and bad, but drags you through the filth of the Vega System through the weakened body of Kyle Rayner. Despite the fact that the book goes through some rather disturbing and chaotic events, the book primarily sticks to a 9 panel format with few exceptions. Which is very similar to how we in the US view war in other countries, specifically the Middle East. We can see the horror, we try to fool ourselves into thinking we don’t live on the same world as these horrible people that chop off heads and mutilate women, among other horrid deeds.
The book functions as a great commentary on religion (In the book you deal with Omegas and Alphas, both of whom have followers willing to die for their religion.) Even more so the book works as commentary on our foreign policy in the age of terror. If you noticed by now I haven’t really said much about the comic’s plot, and that’s intentional.
The plot doesn’t matter much as does the constant ramifications from the actions taken. Rayner is sent to negotiate a peace treaty, the Omega Men capture him and slit his throat on live tv. However they keep him alive to use him to bring down the Citadel. Eventually they do and by that time everyone’s morals have been comprised and very little actually changes.
This is a book so adventurous that every issue ends with a quote from Williams Jones, philosopher and psychologist, and I don’t care. I think the book is better for it, this comic is one of few rare exceptions that I see being read in a class somewhere someday.
The downside to this trade is that is does cheapen some previously set continuity. This is only a downside for people, either familiar with the Omega Men or more recent Kyle Rayner material. However some of the greatest comic stories throw older material under the bus in grander fashion. One of the greatest arcs on comics ever, “Green Arrow/Green Lantern” threw Hal Jordan’s Lantern so far under the bus it isn’t even funny. Secondly, some find the commentary in the book to either be overbearing or just to be unnerving. Regardless of if you find the commentary to be agreeable, you have to admit it is done well.
One of the last points about the book I’ve found is that the story is a bit jumbled together. Originally planned as an ongoing series, the book ended up getting cancelled after issue 6. However due to fan backlash, the book was uncancelled and made into a 12 issue maxi series. The book ends well despite that, but could have worked with a more issues anyway. Though even with being brought back, it’s last issue was the worst selling DC book. Oddly enough the best selling book that was King’s first issue of Batman, which he is still on as of October 2016.
Buy this book or at the very least read these two great articles about the talent behind this wonderful work of comic art. It’s all the commentary you find in a classic episode of Star Trek, without any of the goofy antics. Just the best. It’s a complex and daring work and I sincerely hope King’s work on Batman is just as good as his work on this.