Easily one of the most original and intriguing superhero titles on the market, Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda’s “The Omega Men” #5 plunges us into a dangerous mission as the team is given temporary sanctuary on the planet Changralyn in order to exchange Princess Kalista for the legendary Holy Key of Alpha. Even as the exchange process begins, we are quickly reminded that, in the Vega System, no one can be trusted in any way, shape or form.
King’s script is so packed full of information it almost demands a re-read as soon as you’re done. It’s not that the comic is confusing — if anything, it is very straight-forward and upfront with the reader — but you’ll want the opportunity to digest what’s happened and to think through the motivations of all of the characters involved. There are several focal characters here, but Broot is hardest to look away from. We’re given a great deal of his backstory in bits and pieces; the book never actually flashes back, but his connection to Changralyn and the High Pontifex makes the slow reveal near-impossible to avoid. Even as we learn of Broot’s fall from grace, his actions are given greater meaning, almost a form of atonement as he struggles to reverse his position in life even as the Omega Men’s plan to acquire the Key of Alpha comes into play.
At the same time, King doesn’t lose sight of the rest of the cast. Everything from Scrapps’ defense of Broot to the protestors to Primus’ discovery of a double-cross fits into this story well; however, it’s Kalista and Kyle Rayner who are the most intriguing outside of Broot. To a casual reader, Kyle’s comment to Kalista that he’s been brought down to the planet’s surface to see a specific event would be intriguing in its own right, as you try and puzzle through the plotting behind the scenes. After the events of “The Omega Men” #3 and 4, Kyle’s question has a much more sinister portent even as he’s in the dark on her involvement.
A lot of the credit also needs to go to Bagenda as well as colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr., both of whom make this an artistic tour de force. Bagenda’s nine-panel grid structure continues to work well here, in part because it controls the page to give us tight focuses on characters; Bagenda also knows when to break some of the borders to create large panels within its confines. It’s akin to a song having a steady beat, but that beat suddenly booming much stronger for a moment of emphasis, all the while keeping it moving forward at the same tempo.
There’s a lot of care brought into every single image here, like the panels which have a tint when we’re seeing things through the colored glass in Kyle’s mask. It’s a thoughtfulness not often present in a monthly series. There’s also a lot of power in every single image; Broot attacking the First Stone is dramatic in no small part because of the sheer exertion Bagenda draws, as well as the disconcerting red smear Fajardo paints on top of the First Stone over time. Even something as simple as the floors in the Hall of Rock are amazing due to their gentle purple hues as well as the pale blue light filtering in from outside. When all hell breaks loose, well, let’s just say we’re reminded once again how energetic Scrapps is thanks to how well Bagenda draws her springing into action.
The most important thing about “The Omega Men” #5, though, is how King and Bagenda have once again brought us to a place that isn’t just another pretty background; it’s a fully-realized world complete with actual societies on its surface. The religion of Changralyn is clearly important to the overall structure of “The Omega Men” and learning more about the Alpha and Omega is enthralling, to say nothing of the Key of Alpha. It’s part of why people love this series so much and why the idea it wouldn’t finish out its planned 12-issue initial story arc was distressing. “The Omega Men” #5 is fantastic, bringing elements of the first four issues together in a powerful climax, even as there’s still so much more ahead. Comics don’t often get a second chance this quickly; if you aren’t reading “The Omega Men,” now is a great time to fix that. Read this book; it’s not just as good as you’ve been told, it’s even better. King and Bagenda have created a series people will be talking about for years. I, for one, want it to make it to #13 and beyond — and, after you start reading it, you will too.