Omega Men: The End Is Here, I spotted a review that said the book didn't live up to its hype. Indeed, given all the great things I'd heard about Omega Men, not the least the outcry that saved this miniseries from cancellation halfway through, I wondered if it could really be that good.
Omega Men is a gripping, involved miniseries, starting with its provocative, ripped-from-the-headlines prologue and continuing through to its morally gray end. King brings the puzzle-antics and circular storytelling of Grayson to often pages-upon-pages of nine-panel grids, making for dense chapters that beg re-reading. In the sharp detail Omega Men gives both its heroes and villains -- a category often overlapping -- Omega Men is in some respects the closest a cosmic DC title has come to going toe to toe with Image's Saga. Obviously I haven't yet read DC's upcoming Death of Hawkman yet, but a bar has been set here for space-fairing stories -- really for DC titles in general -- that I fear few are going to be able to meet.
[Review contains spoilers]
King's Omega Men involves itself heavily in the religion of the denizens of the Vega system, but the conflict between the Omega Men and the Citadel goes well beyond religious differences to colonialism and enslavement and genocide. As readers our instincts are to root for the title characters, but King makes this wonderfully troublesome. From the outset, when the Omega Men seemingly carry out the televised murder of White Lantern Kyle Rayner, King drapes the Omega Men in the trappings of today's worst terrorists. Though the Citadel is proven to be most culpable, time and again the Omega Men -- through propagandizing, manipulation, and mass murder -- challenge our definition of what it means to be the good guys. King sets up a dichotomy where empathizing with the Omega Men causes us to put ourselves in the shoes of our worst real-life enemies, and that's both a difficult thing and the mark of good fiction.
Ultimately the readers' sympathies ought not be with the Omega Men nor the Citadel's Viceroy at all, but with Kyle Rayner, kidnapped and to some extent brainwashed (but not murdered) by the Omega Men. It is almost a pity that King included Kyle, in that he allows the reader to be somewhat above the fray by picking a "third side" as the book is wont to say, except that among everything else, Omega Men is also a damn fine Kyle Rayner story. For a book that creates so much of its own mythology, there's no concrete expectation that King should utilize Kyle as more than a handy boilerplate superhero (letting alone that much of the book should turn on a decades-old Superman story). But clearly King chose Kyle for Kyle -- his history including the infamous murder of his girlfriend Alex DeWitt, his tendency to fall for bleeding heart causes, his current relationship with Carol Ferris (King's a little off there but it's OK), even his life as an artist factors in. King even manages to make use of Geoff Johns's various Lantern Corps colors. Just as King has raised the bar on DC's cosmic stories, I don't by any stretch envy the next writer who uses Kyle Rayner and has to depict him as sensitively in the aftermath of this story.
Omega Men's last hanging, bothersome plot thread is that apparently the head of the "Galaxies Committee" in the DC Universe is an unnamed American military figure. King certainly brings home the book's themes of nationalism by setting Kyle's debrief with the US army and not with the Guardians of the Galaxy (whatever their status may be right now), but it's King's one creation that doesn't really jibe with the DCU as we understand it. The best news to be sure in finishing this book is that after Grayson and Omega Men, Tom King is not leaving DC but rather has moved on to arguably DC's highest-profile book, Batman; however, it seems unlikely King will follow this up there, and so for that matter unlikely he'll do so really anywhere.
Again, Omega Men is visually remarkable. Each issue begins and ends with the nine-panel grid, and King and artist Barnaby Bagenda mostly keep the pages aligned to this grid, usually preserving either the horizontal or the vertical even if some of the panels merge. An impressive exception is the fourth issue guest-drawn by Toby Cypress, which purposefully goes against form to underscore an issue spotlighting Kyle. There's a number of pages that repeat backgrounds (Tigorr and Princess Kalista's fight in the third chapter, for instance) where I imagine in digital they might have an effect kind of like Marvel's Infinite Comics or Mark Waid's Thrillbent.
As I sense is likely to become a theme for my now post-Convergence "DC You" reviews, if books like Omega Men didn't make "DC You" a success, I don't know what would have. At twelve issues (and also spanning, story-wise, a year), Omega Men offers an interesting outside perspective on "DC You"; while whatever else was going on with Superman, Batman, and the rest, it was a year that also included the events of Omega Men. Some of these chapters are so solid in and of themselves (the third, with Princess Kalista; the seventh, "on the run"; the tenth, war; and the eleventh, recruitment) that it almost makes me wish I could go back and read the miniseries in single issues. Yes, what you've heard is right. Yes, pick up this book. Yes, here's hoping something like this comes along again, and soon.
[Includes original and variant covers, and extras including sketches; commentary from the creative team, colorist, and cover artists; and a house ad.]