Saturday, July 2, 2016

Catching up on Comics -- A Saturday Sit-down Spectacular: Omega Men #1-6

Aw yeah, comics lovers, its time for a Saturday Sit-down Spectacular.  Reaction and commentary issue-by-issue of a complete series and/or story arc.

Let's go, The Omega Men #1-6 (come back tomorrow for 7-12)
(+ the 8-page "sneak peek" from Convergence: Batman & Robin #2)
DC Comics, 2015-16
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Romulo Bagenda with  Jose Marzan Jr. (Sneak Peek), Toby Cypress (issue 4) and Ig Guara (issue 7)
Colors: Romulo Fajardo Jr. with Hi-Fi (issue 10)
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Covers: Trevor Hutchison

It was the Sneak Peek that sold me on the book... that plus Tom King was already becoming a fast favourite over on Grayson.   But a 9-panel grid book...? How positively Giffen-esque of them (some may say Watchmen, but Giffen is always my go-to reference), and I'm always a sucker for a 9p grid.

My pickup of the book was not a steady one.  I regularly forgot to add it to my pick up list for my weekly Wednesday sojourn to comics shops, and often had to back order the damn thing.  And then after issue six I had to find a new shop and the closing half of the series seemed to be getting scarcer and scarcer (either from dwindling sales or the increased word of mouth.  Through all the "DCYou" tumultuousness, when series were cancelled without mercy, outcry for The Omega Men to continue didn't fall on deaf ears and DC, showing faith in King as a promising superstar talent, let him finish his 12 issue arc, making Omega Men less a cancelled series an more an old school DC "maxi-series".

Issue 1-5 (plus the Sneak Peek) will be a reread for me, but I'm so distant from it I remember very little.  I've rather anxiously been awaiting this Super Saturday Sit-down Spectacular so I can just drive through it.



Now that is how you tease a story!
8 pages, 72 equally-sized panels, all showing one stationary shot from some type of recording device.  It crackles with digital static as a hooded prisoner is dragged into frame by a massive, brute creature (with, incongruously a gentle demeanor).  Another figure comes into frame, speaking of philosophy, religion, oppression and tyranny.  He is a freedom fighter, or a terrorist, depending on your perspective, and his prisoner is Kyle Raynor, the White Lantern, who was sent to broker a "truce"(tantamount to surrender) between the Citadel overlords and the Omega Men uprising.

The Sneak Peek ends with a giant orange cat-man entering the shot and slicing Kyle's throat while the camera crackles and blurs with static.  

I'm not going to play by play every issue but I feel the excitement rising once again for the story to come.  This is just an amazing intro, both in teasing the story and shocking the audience (they can't just do Kyle like that,  can they?).  But equally it's just brilliantly crafted execution (no pun intended) from Bagenda.  Keeping the shot static while having the charaters move around the frame (even the small movements the bound Kyle make) gives the sequence such a dynamic feel.

I read this on my phone through Comixology, and the 9p-grid is perfect for the average smartphone display to thumb through panel by panel.  It's very close to a flipbook in this regard.


Hutchison's covers for the entire
series are great, but the first is my

And the crew is introduced... facing off against off-world Citadel soldiers (a prerecorded message "We are friends.  We will not hurt you" repeats over and over as they blast, beat and shove their way through the populace of a remote outpost.  But cause and effect, beginning and the end.  These soldiers are the alpha and the Omega Men are their end.

Tigorr, the brutal cat-man.  Broot, a peaceful giant pushed to far.  Scrapps, left with no other options. Doc, the medical robot. Primus, their pacifist leader who must enter the fray of bloodshed and violence himself.

They have what the soldiers were after.  Kyle Raynor: the bomb.

Meanwhile, was that the white lantern ring on the viceroy's finger?

Bagenda again delivers excellent storytelling and pacin in thr 9p format, often merging panels but always sticking to the grid, occasionally offering up a splash page, which is kind of jarring against the 9p but also emphasizes the excitement of the splash.


I love these opening panels... the upshot perspective of the Governor preparing his greeting as the Viceroy's omega-shaped spaceship (very cool,very Star Wars in a way) makes it's landing.

A wholly evil (and utterly casual) exchange follows between the Governor and Viceroy, as the haggle over how many of the Governor's own people must die in "compensation" for the loss of the 39 Citadel soldiers in the previous issue (according to the contractual terms between the Citadel and the Governor's planet, 100 civilians must die for every soldier killed).  It's extremely black satire that comes to bleak fruition later in the book, with a gut punch of a reveal about our protagonists (it's really a question by the end of this issue if we're supposed to be rooting for the Omega Men, despite their extreme methods, or if we're supposed to be more on Kyle's side).

Meanwhile, Kyle Rayner gets a bomb (kind of like a parolee's ankle monitor) inserted into his throat, and he prays in Spanish as he recuperates.  I haven't read a story with Kyle in quite some time, and even when he became GL in the mid-90's (the period when I read the most Rayner-led stories) there was never an indication that he was Hispanic or Latino.  Which isn't to say that this is a new change, he may have been this whole time, but it's only now that I've seen his cultural background is presented as a part of his character.

Tigorr is a big cat-man butvhe can still hide under Broot's cloak while Broot is wearing it.  Broot is huge.  Meanwhile, it's strange that Doc has room inside his metal body for Scrapps to hide in (then pop out and shoot people in the face... this book is really violent).

Primus may be a pacifist but he sure knows how to motivate and manipulate.

That final page, where Kyle recites the Green Lanterns' oath, taking blood from his neck wound and turning the omega symbol on his jumpsuit into a lantern symbol: brilliant, all around.


My memories from my original reading of the first 5 issues are mostly of this one, where we're introduced to Princess Kalista.  On page one she is swordfighting with a natuve of the planet Euphorix.  Kalista's father, though a king, still is a servant of the Citadel.  Having been transposed from her homewold to Euphorix as a child, Kalista has been training in swordfighting for almost two decades by combating a handful of desperate civilians (brought to her for that very purpose) every day, to the death.  Naturally she's become a pretty good swordsman...swordswoman...swordsperson.

The Omega Men make a kidnapping attempt, with Tigorr, then Scrapps, entering the fray and nearly dying in the process.  Finally Primus and Broot succed and get everyone back on board their stolen ship (from the previous issue) and Doc bandages their wounds

Scrapps looks like Amy
Pohler here. like.
Kalista is put in a cel with Kyle and they're told their fates (and neck bombs) are linked.  Kyle's white knight syndrome kicks in.  What he doesnt know is that Kalista is a plant and she is, in fact, the leader of the Omega Men.

What has become clearer in reading these past two issues is that there's no amount of sacrifice, civilian or Omega Man alike, that's too small for their cause.  But what is their plan?

I loved the subtle Omega symbol her drop of blood made in the water on pg 3 (echoes of the first issue where the Omega symbol swirls around in the Viceroy's coffee).  I also like how Bagenda does a lot of background reveals, training the reader to be invested in the entire frame at all times (just in case).

I'm wondering if Kalista tells her manservant, Talim, that she loves him (noting that she doesn't say so often enough) because she knows he's going to be killed ...?
more beautiful grid style fight sequencing from Romulo Bagenda



The bad news is Bagenda is out this issue and fill in artist Toby Cypress either didn't get the memo about the 9p grid format or he was told he didn't have to stick to it.
This is a Kyle-focussed issue, as he and Kalista get further acquainted.  By the time the team "kidnaps" Kalista last issue, Kyle's been a captive of the Omega Men for a few months.

Kyle quickly retells how he came to be a Lantern and some of the trials he's faced as a result, but King writes Kyle's narrative in such a way that it has meaning to their current situation, and more importantly why Kyle is relevant to the Omega Men.  It's obvious they see his potential. Kyle relates how, unlike other Lanterns, he wasn't chosen, or selected, it wasn't fate, and  he didn't have the requirements, the fearlessness or strength, he was just there.  But here, the parallel is, he was selected, he was chosen by the Omega Men because of his strengths, and perhaps it was just a little fate that brought him.

Kyle talks of the two sides of the coin, the fork in the road where paths diverge and lives take shape.  In its own way, the Alpha and the Omega, cause and effect.

Cypress errs in the art here, showing Kyle giving up his ring to the Citadel when he came to broker the peace treaty, which explains how the Viceroy has it in issue one.  Only thing is, it's a Green Lantern ring and not the White Lantern ring that it should have been (and he's drawn and colored in a Green Lantern uniform).   At least they explain why he gave up his ring (has to do with a longstanding truce between the Guardians and the Citadel that keeps Lantern "weapons" out of the Vega system).

Kalista tells Kyle her story, of how she was raised to slay the Euphorix natives, of how the Citadel oppresses her people's religion, and then takes Kyle on a verbal tour of oppression throughout the Vega system.  But we don't really know with her what's genuine and what's manipulation.  As Primus and Tigorr (who Cypress draws like A FUCKING LION!) observe, they note that Kalista has a plan and they need "the bomb", which has become their pet name for Kyle.

Kalista preaches hate for the Omega Men, but sympathy for their plight, and she baits Kyle into having feelings for her.  At this stage, Kyle's there as emotional support but he has to forget Carol first, and that may prove harder than Kalista thinks (she was a Star Sapphire, a love lantern, afterall).



In which the Omega Men return to Changralyn, Broot's home planet.  It's a very religious society and, as we learned from Kalista's audio tour last issue, one in which its priests have been paid off by the Citadel to preach acceptance of their oppression.  We learn "Broot" is a moniker of shame, that he was once Dauphin of the Pontifex, a good priest of high standing. But Broot became an outcast because he spoke against this corruption, and he was ejected, so the masses fling poo as he returns to the temple. 
"It is being good that it is dung. It is better than throwing stones.  Stones are being sacred."

Their visit here is to meet with the King of Euphorix, Kalista's father, acting as neutral ground to make an exchange: Kalista for a magic key, the Key of Alpha.

I like that King writes Kyle as being more aware and more intelligent than someone usually is in their surroundings.  He's not fully aware he's being manipulated but he can tell the Omega Men are up to something.  I like his new mask, and how Bagenda alternates the panels between looking at Kalista and Kyle and Kyle's red-tinged POV.
Bagenda's first two-page splash is a beaut as the Omega Men realize they've fallen into a trap.

Broot and Scrapps have a real Groot and Rocket thing going here.  The gentle giant, and the quick witted foul-mouthed weapons nut.  (It should be noted that Broot predates Groot's current popular public persona, though I believe that Groot still appeared in the 1960's, well before the Omega Men debuted in the 80's).

Fajardo Jr.'s coloring this issue is absolutely gorgeous.

And a beaut of a cliffhanger ending.  I'm hoping poor Broot isn't being sacrificed, the trope of the gentle giant making the sacrifice for others to live is a bit played (Groot, Hodor, Chukha-Trok).


Oh my Alpha!  They've really been captured.  The Citadel is extracting the bomb from Kyle's neck.  The Omega Men's plan is undone.  Their interrogation is...oh my god wee Tigorr is sooo cuuuute!  He was the adopted by the Viceroy.  That explains why there was so much commotion about Tigorr in the first issue (they were speaking another language but Tigorr, Kyle Raynor, and Omega Men all went untranslated).
Just like everyone else (including the reader), the Viceroy's only question is "Why do the Omega Men need Kyle Raynor?"

And now the Viceroy is treating Kyle as if he is indeed one of the Omega Men, interrogating him (while still wearing Kyle's White Lantern ring on his finger), calling into question his kidnapping story.  So the question is, as asked "Are you Kyle Raynor?  Or are you an Omega Man?

Ahh, finally some insight into Scrapps background.  It's only 3 panels, but it's about high time we got something. In fact we get insight into how Kalista recruited the whole gang, leaving more tantalizing bits of backstory on the table.

Just like I didn't know that Kyle was Hispanic, I also didn't know he was so religious.  Was this something they started really hitting upon when he became the White Lantern?  New 52?

Aww and they confirm Broot did actually die last issue.  Suck. 
Another hell of an ending.  King's storytelling here is really building, very propulsive.

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