In media res literally means “into the middle of things” and is a narrative device wherein the reader is dropped right into the middle of the story. The structure, while far from uncommon in the comic medium, is inherently risky. By forgoing story build-up the story has to grab the reader instantly, or they will simply lose interest. With the Omega Men, Tom King (currently helming a fantastic run on Batman) with help on art from the talented Barnaby Bagenda, drops the readers not just into the middle of a foreign story but into the middle of a foreign setting, with foreign characters. The first few issues are like trying to put together a puzzle without the box and having to start from the corners.
The Omega Men are a team of five (or is it six? Or seven?) freedom fighters (terrorists?) living in the Vega sector who have been stuck in an ongoing war with the Citadel; a powerful, religious government. The team and the setting aren’t completely new but to the average reader they might as well be. The wrinkle in the story, and the only ostensible link to the greater DC universe, is Kyle Rainer, the white lantern. He has been sent to attempt to negotiate a truce between the Omega Men and the Citadel. The problem is that the Vega sector have a deal with the Green Lantern core that they may never enter the sector so as a condition of his entry, Rayner must hand over his ring. From there everything goes downhill, way downhill.
The twelve issues that make up the entirety of the story are fantastically put together. Each member of the Omega Team becomes a fully fleshed out character with the use of minimal amount of flashback and exposition. Broot is the cast out son of a corrupted ecclesiarch, Tigorr is *spoilers*, Primus their leader is a reformed *spoiler* who fell in love with *spoiler*. Okay so the character descriptions aren’t much use. That is largely because each of the omega men, as well as being a fully realised character is also a vital part of the plot. Thematically Kings asks powerful questions about what it means to be a hero and about what kind of sacrifices are necessary in a hero’s quest to save people. It’s a subtle message that only really hits the reader when incredibly bad things start happening which are quickly justified.
For those of us that have become accustomed to high speed storytelling this series is a welcome surprise. Tom King really slow rolls the pace, to the point where by the end of the first issue the reader still really has no idea who anybody is or why they are doing what they are doing. The build-up from there is slow but steady and it keeps escalating up to the point where all of a sudden, the fate of the universe is on the line.
The Omega Men is a hidden gem that will probably go overlooked by many readers. If you are a fan of super heroes or even just a fan of fantastically told stories this is a book that I won’t hesitate to recommend.
The real question though, is why do the Omega Men need Kyle Rayner?