In Scrapps and Doc's attempt at freeing the captured Primus, Princess Kalista and Kyle Raynor last issue, they apparently killed over 37,000 people. Are these hard choices for the Omega Men, to destroy that much of the enemy in one fell swoop, or is it just a necessity that they don't think twice about. Primus is a pacifist and so far he's only personally taken one life, but in the process he's been responsible for thousands of deaths indirectly along the way. As Kalista said last issue, the only sacrifice they need from him is his soul.
Remember me saying that Kyle wasn't falling for Kalista's attempts to manipulate him into loving her... yeah, well, scratch that.
"I love you."
"No you don't. You want to save what you love. You want to love what you save. And you want to save me."
Even further, pushing him away to bring him in closer, a little bit of rejection while being fully intimate. Well played Kalista.
An appearance from Omega Men of old on the "Wanted" board in the center spread (which didn't quite make it to the center. I see Harpis and Nimbus on the board, though they haven't appeared otherwise. "Green Man" isn't the same as old, that's just how they reference Kyle...even though he came as the White Lantern...
Ok, maybe Kyle's not so easily manipulated afterall. Tom King's keeping us guessing on this one. Kyle's also quite observant.
|Kyle gets a "What's in the box" moment|
"Planet Voorl is forbidden".
Back in issue 4, Kalista told Kyle that when the Citadel came knocking, Voorl put up a force shield and no one has entered or left since. Kalista makes it seem like it's a big thing, but if we on Earth were cut off from traveling into space, or having space travel into us, it may not seem like a big deal. Then again if we were cut off from, say, traveling to Australia, and Australians were cut off from leaving, it might seem a bit more...I dunno...forbidden fruit maybe? I don't think humans like barriers instinctively. And yet putting a wall up along the Mexico border seems like a good idea to a lot of people, so maybe I'm wrong about that. You know who doesn't like barriers? Cats. Close a door and a cat wants to see on the other side. Let her go on the other side and close the door behind her, and she'll want to go through again. Oh, cats.
A young Scrapps asks, "...Mommy, what's the shield?"
"Oh, it's nothing you have to worry about. That's why it's there, my darling. So you never have to worry."
Ah, and now we learn what the key of Alpha is for. Can't believe I didn't piece that together already.
After Krypton exploded, a galactic committee was assigned to looking into a solution to preventing planetary deterioration. The answer was "Stellarium" a substance "which may be injected into a planet's core to prevent deterioration and subsequent combustion." It's a property apparently unique to the Vega system but research has learned its mining is "not...beneficial to the inhabitants of the mined world." You see where this is going...
Is Kalista really asking Kyle to use the White Lantern ring, the ring of life, as a bomb?
And now statements Tigorr made a few issues back about killing a world make sense.
Bagenda and Fajardo Jr. nail this shot of what the Citadel did to Voorl. Shocking and stunning, a gorgeous piece.
A bit of backstory for Doc here. DOC = Defense Operation Cybertronics. The insinuation was that Doc was a medical droid...whelp...not so much. The relationship between Scrapps and Doc comes into focus here in heartbreaking bookends.
Much like the Omega Men, who have been taking an extensive amount of lives in their fight to usurp the Citadel, the Citadel preach that the sacrifice of Vrool is ultimately the savior of hundreds of billions of lives. Kyle struggles with what he has been asked to do, he struggles with what he's been doing with his life as a Lantern when massacres like this can happen. He rages against his God, though his belief in God never waivers. He just doesn't particularly like God right now.
And now it's Doc's turn to sacrifice... or, perhaps, to atone.
The Omega Men venture to The Seat of the Audience (basically the assembly of the Vega system's various governments). They're startled to find the Viceroy of the Citadel there, but no really. The Prime Speaker of the Audience: "Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Terrorists or freedom fighters?!? Leaders or oppressors?!? It's all so very exciting!"
I didn't realize the White Lantern was "the only person to ever master each and every emotion on the color spectrum of lanterns."
Kyle: "They said...I had to choose between the savagery of empire and the savagery of revolution. And I said, No. I would not choose. I told them there was another way. A third way. Truth. Justice. The American Way." (And yet, what is the American way? What does that represent anymore. At times it seems it is both the empire and the revolution. America is both the alpha and the omega. Life, liberty and justice, but also death, oppression, and injustice). "I chose to come to the people, let them see the horror that is keeping their planets alive." (And when this happens in America, which it doesn't happen nearly enough, showing the horrors America's presence in the world has...but when it does, the people whether outraged or not, largely turn a blind eye, placated by entertainment and the desperate struggle for the fallacy of the American dream which they've been sold. I'm no less guilty. I'm writing extensively about comic books for Alpha's sake.)
Boom. And it all goes down.
Karna (Tigorr's homeworld). Battle of the Cats, Day 22. Kyle's in the thick of it as the Karnan's face off against the Citadel's D.O.C.s. The D.O.C.s are very effective and efficient murder machines, but all the while they coldly plead "Please surrender."
Kyle's a resolute fighter, but a lousy warrior and tactician. He has a superweapon at his disposal which effectively is powered by his emotions and the only limit to what he can do is his imagination. He's fighting with claws and guns and enhanced fists. They're robots Kyle, you're an artist... construct a sky gun that can target them all at once...or a giant masher that can take them out in one fell swoop. So frustrating.
Why does the chairman of the Galaxies Committee keep making Earth turns of phrase ("wait a country minute", "waddling off as fast as Central City lightning"), talking like a Southerner. Who is this guy?
Kyle and Primus manage to have a conversation for the first time. In fact, Primus has been relegated to the far background for the past three or four issues. I don't even recall his last line of dialogue. But here, he's talking about being a pacifist at war, and also his conflicted feelings about Kalista and Kyle.
War is fought. War escalates.
War escalates from Karna to all the 5 worlds of Vega.
Kyle becomes the Omega Lantern. He brokers deals for soldiers to fight on the Omega Men's behalf. He gets his cross back.
Scrapps likewise gets the corrupt Changalyn to turn against those who bribed them into complicity. She is being Broot.
Tigorr, the captured son of the ruler of Karna, the murderer of his own father, the traitor, has returned a warrior and savior and now fights for his place as heir to lead the pride.
Primus returns in front of the camera, begs forgiveness for what he must ask, which is for others to give up their firmest belief in nonviolence and take up arms against their oppressors.
An Kalista, patricide or regicide...either way she inherits the throne, and must lead a civilization of Brahmin her family has broken for many, many years.
There's no doubt a lot of intricacies to how these societies react to their new leadership, but war is at hand and the time to discuss past sins can wait.
The Omega War rages. And on Day 182, the Omega Men reach the Citadel home world.
"Everyone is savage. Everyone is civilized."
People like to consider themselves good and bad, consider themselves better than others and the actions they do. People like to justify their immorality as part of the greater good. People who are unwilling to accept their own evil. People who blame others, who only see black and white, who see no third option. But the difference, Kyle points out, between the Omega Men and the Viceroy, is that they enter into their actions with eyes wide open. They're not proud of the deaths they cause (not most of them anyway) and they're not blind as to the impact of their actions. Kyle counts himself among their ranks now, but, as seen in the last issue, he sometimes stands while others fight, perhaps watching to ensure lines are not crossed, turning the Omega Men's war ignoble.
The Viceroy's actions at this point, the whole war is to save himself. The Galaxies Committee will have his head if they don't get their Stellarium, and the Galaxies Committee are willing to turn a blind eye to the Viceroy's actions to get it. It's no surprise the Viceroy has a panic room.
Scrapps: "I don't want to just blow everything up. I want to, like, shoot him in the face. It's not fair."
Kyle doesn't know if he has the strength to get to the Viceroy. Kalista gives him a pep talk...well, more like putting the weight of millions of lives on his shoulders. "You want to save everyone? Here's your chance. Open the box."
Kyle makes a plea, to show that the world doesn't have to be black and white, Alpha and Omega, that there's room in between. "There is always a third way."
But some people are their their nature, and cannot, or will not change.
And that inability to change shakes Kyle to the core. What is good? What is evil? Where do good intentions go bad? How can bad deeds be good? This is what shakes not just Kyle's confidence him himself, but in his belief in everything.
The Omega Men win. But it's a hollow victory. They separate, go back to their home planets to rule, who knows how justly (not very, it seems). Kyle's left to walk through the Citadel homeworld and witness the massacre he supported.
He returns to give a report to the leader of the Galaxies Committee (why? I'm not certain. I'm a little outside of current Green Lantern policies and hierarchies). But this leader, an American, he's once again on the warpath for "the greater good". We need Stellarium and the Vegans, under Kalista's rule, won't just give up a planet for it, so we need to go in and take it. And that is the American way.
Kyle give a final speech, when pressed to answer whether he's "with them or us"? The answer is Kyle's going to fight for what he believes is right, and he's going to fight to convince others to do what's right. But the final point is who's the savage, who's civilized, and he frames it in the context of grids in a comic book. Purpose.
I get the sense through all this that Tom King is wrestling with his own feelings about serving his country, about how America acts "in the greater good" but all the more often seems simply self serving. There's obvious parallels to the Iraq war (Stellarium = oil), and again the military viewpoint is "us or them" as if there's no other options, no other way for a soldier to think about what they're doing. King seems to propose a third option, but he's not quite clear how that third option takes shape. America is supposed to be a land of ideals, but in the international market (and moreso at home) they don't tend to exhibit those ideals. They just tend to speak to them while secretly doing something other.
Each issue ends with a quote from William James, one of the most prominent American philosopher. James wrote a lot about pragmatism, and truth. He tried to see if belief was quantifiable, if there was a commercial element...if people's beliefs could be bought and sold. Does the internal reality have an external value? For instance does a belief in God have an external value? If it brings meaning to the holder of the belief then for certain value does exist.
I'm sure there's more to James than just that (the result of rudimentary web searches), and King's use of the quotes no doubt have influenced each chapter of the story.
In the end Omega Men comes together as a deep, dark and rewarding investigation into war, and why we fight, the nature of belief in one's self and one's actions. King story bustles with purpose, with meaning and intent, and Bagenda is on board for delivering both as space war spectacle and as ruminative philosophical essay. It's a surprisingly intense piece of work, well beyond what anyone could expect from effectively minor characters from the 80's largely forgotten. With a more pulpy flair, King could have had the next Guardians of the Galaxy on his hands, but he had a more important story in mind, more important things to say than strictly entertainment.
I'm glad DC gave King his 12 issues. It leaves teasing a second, much larger war. I'm not certain if this requires playing out. The intent is clear...there's always going to be more fighting. It's human nature. Its wanting what someone else has. It's self preservation. It's any number of excuses. Deep down we know it shouldn't be this way, but we also know it can't help but be this way.