Saturday, 15 October 2016

The Omega Men: The End Is Here Review (Tom King, Barnaby Bagenda)

Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda’s The Omega Men: The End Is Here is basically the Second Iraq War... in Spaaaaaaaace! 

Kyle Rayner, the Lego-domino-mask-wearing Green Lantern-turned-White Lantern (Go, Go Power Rangers!), is captured by the Omega Men (al-Qaeda or ISIS as they’re known today) to topple the Citadel (America), a heavily-religious foreign power with a massive military that invades a planet for their natural resources, occupies it, and covers up some horrible atrocities they committed. The Omega Men’s mission is to kill the Viceroy (head of the Citadel/President of America) and reveal their war crimes to everyone. At least that’s my interpretation of it – you could also look at it as a critique of the Catholic Church and its child sex scandal cover-ups, especially as the Viceroy wears Pope-ish robes. And it’s worth mentioning that Tom King was a CIA operative in Iraq in 2003 who’s written about his experiences less obliquely in his Vertigo series, The Sheriff of Babylon.

Taking the perspective of the terrorists is an interesting choice, the grandly dark tone is immediately gripping and the setup is certainly intriguing. It feels a bit like King/DC trying to do a 21st century Watchmen-esque story. The superheroes are very serious, the subject matter is grim and most of the book is presented in the Watchmen nine panel grid format. Unfortunately the book turns out to be kinda boring and not very good! 

The hostage video opening mirrors the kind that al-Qaeda used to make when they captured US soldiers except it’s Rayner who’s been caught and the Omega Men are threatening to execute him. And this is where King’s stodgy writing kicks in as it always seems to. 

Why did they make that video - for whose benefit? It broadcasts to everyone who watches it that they’re terrorists and happy to kill any Lanterns they find so where was the Green (or any colour) Lantern response? And why make themselves more prominent outlaws? To let everyone know Rayner’s dead? Why? And people find out he’s not anyway when he starts appearing with the Omega Men! 

Also, I thought Rayner was dead before this series? When did he come back to life? When did he become super-Christian? To be fair I don’t read a lot of Green Lantern stuff but the last one I read was only a couple years ago. Ah, it doesn’t matter, superheroes die and come back to life all the time. Why did he have to surrender his ring? Sure, it makes for a dramatic reappearance later on when he gets it back and, BOOM, the White Lantern rides again, but the whole thing felt so contrived. 

Possibly most importantly, why did the Omega Men need Rayner at all? Why did they make a big show of “killing” him and then spend so much time tricking him into becoming one of them? I know he’s a Lantern and their rings are hella powerful but once the book’s last quarter turns into mindless fighting, it really doesn’t look like they needed him at all. I don’t think there’s a single key scene where they needed this guy but everyone says he’s central to the whole story. 

I’ve never come across Barnaby Bagenda’s art before but I was blown away with how good it was. He really makes you feel like this is a space opera/Star Wars-ian story with his amazing alien designs and epic vision for King’s story. The art is consistently impressive and if DC/Marvel aren’t chasing this guy for an exclusive contract, they’re idiots. 

Despite the art, The Omega Men failed to engage me. The characters are pretty much all brain-dead, the story is a garbled mess of semi-formed ideas and bizarre plot points, none of which were interesting, and it’s far too long at 12 issues - if you’re anything like me you’re gonna be relieved when the end is here! It’s another bad Tom King book - this dude is really overrated!

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