THE OMEGA MEN #12
Written by Tom King
Art by Barnaby Bagenda, Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: May 25, 2016
The Omega Men concludes with the final, desparate confrontation between the Viceroy of the Citadel, Kyle Rayner, and the Omega Men.
In this final issue, Omega Men ends the only way that it could: The war with the Citadel is over, but none of its underlying issues are resolved. This story may have ended, but the story of Vega will continue, as bloody as ever.
The issue begins with the Omega Men penetrating the Viceroy’s inner sanctum. Kallista wants to kill the Viceroy to put a definitive end to the conflict. Kyle is set up as the peacemaker in search of a non-violent resolution to the war in Vega. Kyle attempts to propose a third way, to find a middle ground between the Citadel and the Omega Men, and the Viceroy laughs in his face. We learn that the Viceroy already is the third way, that an endless series of compromises lead to the conflict that now tears Vega apart.
A lot of comics (indeed, a lot stories generally) have told this tale before. Two seemingly-intractable sides face off, when a third party steps between them to offer a mutually-satisfactory third way. This can be a simple and obvious compromise that insults the reader’s intelligence (“Why not just share?”), or something more complex and realistic, while still satisfying the reader’s desire for resolution, (“We’ll begin a dialog that will hopefully, someday, bring peace”).
Omega Men chooses a more difficult, and a more honest, path. In Omega Men, as in real life, there are no easy answers to complex conflicts. Indeed, often there aren’t even hard answers. Sometimes conflicts have no resolution, they just shift and metamorphose, an endless sequence of new conflicts that metastasize into ancient grudges and old conflicts that revitalize into new hatreds.
In the end, Kyle abandons multiple faiths. In a merciful God, in the Omega Men, and in the Endings that Omega represents. The scene is elegantly rendered by Barnaby Bagenda, who depicts the torn Omega symbol and Kyle’s rosary, which we’ve seen him lose and regain multiple times throughout this series, tossed on the floor, then gradually drowned in a pool of blood. Fajardo’s colors give life to the coagulating, oxidizing blood as it flows in differently-toned layers over the twin symbols of Kyle’s lost faith.
Bagenda has proven to be the perfect artist for this series, no moreso than in the final page, in which the series’ familiar nine-panel grid is used to depict eight panels of Kyle’s face as he tries to process his feelings about the conflict of the prior twelve issues (which he works through by discussing panel grids in comics). With eight panels of just Kyle’s face, Bagenda depicts him moving through a range of emotions as he makes a seemingly esoteric connection between his past life and his present struggles. He ends with Kyle smiling, the faintest glimmer of hope to conclude an otherwise bleak series.
It might be tempting to read Omega Men as a treatise in nihilism. The universe is infinitely complicated and conflicts can’t be satisfactorily resolved, so why bother doing anything? The last two panels of the last page of this final issue, I think, push back against that reading. Kyle smiles as he’s asked which side he’s on in the renewed Vega conflict. Then the issue concludes, as every issue has concluded, with a panel quoting William James:
If this life be not a real fight in which something is eternally gained for the universe by success, it is no better than a game of private theatricals from which one may withdraw at will. But it feels like a real fight – as if there were something really wild in the universe which we, with all our identities and faithfullness, are needed to redeem.
Even if there are no answers, even if there is no end to the struggle, it all has meaning. We have to grapple with our problems and search for solutions even if they may not exist, for it’s in that struggle that we can find our redemption.
I hesitate to call Omega Men a perfect comic, if only because I hate to think of art as something that is perfectable. With that said, Omega Men is as close to a flawless comic as I have read since I first began reading comics, and this last issue brings the series to, if not necessarily a satisfying conclusion, then one that is wholely in keeping with everything that came before it.
The Verdict: 10/10