This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on August 24, 2016.
This is not a review of The Omega Men. If you’ve been paying attention to comics over the past year and a half, then you already know this series is great. Comics Bulletin manga editor and critic-you-should-definitely-be-paying-attention-to J. A. Micheline has written a lot on how much she loves this series elsewhere, and I was sure to include it in my 2015 “Best Of” list. If you’re just hearing about The Omega Men now, then you’re in luck. It’s a truly excellent comic book, and both of those links make the case. This review is not about what an excellent series The Omega Men is though, it’s about what an excellent collection it has made.
There are certain collections of comics that have come to be considered essential superhero reading. I’m talking about the likes of Watchmen, All-Star Superman, and Nextwave. These big volumes provides lots of material that can be enjoyed on repeat readings and really show off what comics are capable of. They also suspiciously seem to always collect 12 issues. While those examples present vastly different tones, styles, and themes, they are books most comics fans cherish.
“The Omega Men: The End is Here”, the complete collection of all 12 issues along with the 8-page preview chapter and various other materials, joins these rarified ranks as it launches into comic stores this week.
The Omega Men makes for such an excellent collection because it is a self-contained story. From the very start writer Tom King and artist Barnaby Bagenda intended for the series to be told in 12 issues. That plan was almost disrupted when DC announced The Omega Men #7 would be the series’ final issue. However, a massive outcry from fans helped lead to a reprieve for the series and the successful completion of this plan. As a result the collection reads in a novelistic fashion with a clearly planned beginning, middle, and end. While readers may seek out another Kyle Rayner story after reading it, everything they need to appreciate this story can be found here.
I said before that I would avoid delving into a review of the series itself, and the popular opinion speaks for itself.The Omega Men functions as both entertainment and scholarly study. Critics have consistently praised both the sympathetic roster of characters and the propulsive action, as well as complex formalist elements built into every page. Whether you’re seeking a rip-roaring space opera or poignant meditation on violence, The Omega Mendelivers.
It’s that mix of entertainment, craft, and complexity that makes it a perfect comic for both new and experienced readers. Place this in a classroom setting and high school students can discover the potential of comics without being bored out of their minds. Give it to someone who has given grown cynical towards the “Big Two” and you may reignite their interest. There are still some people I might not consider giving The Omega Men to (like my grandmother), but there aren’t many.
On top of all that, “The Omega Men: The End is Here” is simply a great deal. It is almost 300 pages for only $24.99. In a market where many individual issues with only 20 pages of material cost $3.99 or more, this collection gives you a lot of bang for your buck. Some of those pages are composed of backmatter, including character design sketches from Bagenda. These are not slapdash in nature. Notes from the creators reveal the careful thought that went into much of the series, and some ideas of what might have been. Changes made to fan favorite character Doc was altered from a more humanistic design in order to encompass a key plot twist.
If you’re looking for a holiday or birthday present for someone, or something to introduce yourself to comics or remind yourself why you love them, “The Omega Men: The End is Here” is a collection I recommend wholeheartedly. It’s about to join a lot of comics libraries and for good reason. The Omega Men is a comic that delivers on the promise so many of us comics critics constantly talk about, and it’s now available to be read in a single setting. All that’s left is to enjoy.