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Monday, May 11, 2015 

The Omega Men have been desecrated, and Kyle Rayner rubbed out

When Marv Wolfman and Joe Staton created the original Omega Men in the early-80s, they were heroic space rebels fighting against an autocracy called the Citadel in the Vegan galaxy. But now, they're being turned into murderers, and their first major victim is apparently the 90s Green Lantern:
Writer Tom King is planning a modern cosmic epic as he launches The Omega Men in June, but the writer said the title is also something "edgy and different that people haven't seen in comics for awhile — something that has meaning, and is big, and is thrilling."

To kick off the story, King and new artist Barnaby Bagenda put together an eight-page preview that was released this week. And to the shock of most DC fans, it depicted the murder of beloved Green Lantern character Kyle Rayner.

The alleged murder of Rayner will be central to the new title's story as it begins in June, with the Omega Men characters — a space-based team of rebels — being hunted by the Citadel empire to answer for Rayner's death.
What, so now the Citadel are allegedly the goodies? Talk about role-reversals! What I want to know is why a team like the Omega Men who were created as good guys are now being turned into murderers who target a guy who's on the side of good? Here's some more from the interview with the writer:
Newsarama: Tom, the preview came out this week, which was pretty shocking. We'll get to the apparent murder of Kyle Rayner in a minute. But the first thing that comes to mind with a scene like that is that it echoes real life — it feels like the sort of brutal murder videos we're seeing lately from ISIS and other terrorist organizations. Were you trying to echo the fears we're dealing with in real life?

Tom King: Yeah, what we're trying to go for here is the great, new, cosmic epic.

I think to modernize that concept — to make it relevant and cool, and to get people to leave their houses and go into this new sci-fi world, you have to ground it in what they're seeing every day on the news. You have to address real dangers. I think that's what all great sci-fi involves, and what great epics have done for over 2,000 years.

This is what makes us afraid today, so this is what's going to be in the story.
I don't see how it makes sense to warp a team of goodies into an evil terrorist outfit, nor do I see how making them the stars of the show in that context will appeal to anyone sensible. Instead of conceiving a new bunch of characters to serve as the story's villains, we have here again a case of old heroes being transformed into villains instead. And it's not even the first time the Omega Men fell victim to these changes - it first happened back in 2006. It's very unfair to Wolfman, Staton, and even the late Roger Slifer. There's nothing edgy about this, and the only thing "different" is taking goodies and making them into baddies you can't root for if they slaughter innocents. It's something that's already turned up in some form or other this past decade, and there's no meaning to it at all, save for exploitation.

And as bad as Emerald Twilight was, I am not pleased one bit that Kyle Rayner's been turned into another sacrificial lamb, but neither am I surprised this happened. With today's inmates running the asylum, it was bound to happen sooner or later. And by turning Omega Men into cold-blooded killers, that's why the pages and panels that make Kyle's possible execution look like something from out of an ISIS video come off looking offensive and sensationalistic.
Nrama: They're hunted down, right, for allegedly killing Kyle? I'm sticking with "allegedly" right now! [Laughs.]

King: [Laughs.] Yes, they were already the most wanted people in this Vega star system, and the price on their heads just went up because — and this is not just my continuity — the Vega star system has a deal with the Lanterns that they're not allowed inside it. And so to have a Lantern killed on their territory means that, if they can't find these killers, they might have to let Lanterns in, which is unthinkable to the Citadel that owns this territory.

So the stakes are very high to find these killers.
I am so not laughing along with these crude kooks. If they're turning a heroic team into cold-blooded killers, that's not fun at all.
Nrama: OK, now the point-blank spoiler question. Is Kyle Rayner really dead? I mean, you didn't' show him die.

King: Um…

Nrama: OK, let's put it this way. Will Kyle never, ever be seen again?

King: The story of Kyle Rayner and his role in the DC Universe is not over.

Nrama: That's a good answer.
Or is it? When CBR interviewed King, the following exchange was given:
The series kicked off this week with an eight-page story featuring the death of Kyle Rayner. That's a pretty big move to be making right out the gate. What does starting the series in such dramatic fashion offer your story -- and what did the White Lantern ever do to you?

"Omega Men" has high stakes. Characters will die. In the beginning, and in the end. This is not a story where you know who will win and who will lose. Every person in the book is vulnerable. That starts with Kyle. The question shouldn't be, why Kyle? It should be, who comes next?
This is exactly the same kind of hyping that was used to promote earlier embarrassments like Avengers: Disassembled and Identity Crisis, along with other similar sleaze. And it's long gotten very old and uninteresting.
To put it bluntly, does the Omega Men team's complicity in Kyle's death make them villains? If so, how does that affect the thematic shape of this series? Can you make us care about characters who have been responsible for the death of a fan favorite?

Complicity is such a nice way of putting it. I'd say they straight up murdered the poor Lantern.

In all honesty, I have no idea if the Omega Men are good guys or bad guys. I haven't decided yet. I know there are characters in this book worse than them, and quite a few that are better than them. I know it's my job to make my audience feel compassion toward these men and women, to help the audience feel that they could make the same choices the Omega Men make. That's the point of this story, and maybe all stories. You think you're so different from that other guy until you realize he's the protagonist, too.

Beyond that, I feel that if I make the decision that the Omega Men are heroes or villains, the audience will sense it and go with me or rebel against me -- react to my opinion. I'd rather have them react to the actions of these characters, let the audience make up their own minds. Maybe once they have, they can convince me what side to come down on.
King's statement is mind-boggling. How can we feel compassion or sympathy towards men and women who murder an innocent man? And what kind of audience is he looking for? Not sane people, I don't think. Furthermore, as somebody who knows what the Omega Men started out as, I don't react to the character's actions. I react to the writer's idea of what makes great entertainment, which as far as I'm concerned, is absolutely not. Again, I find the Emerald Twilight era one of the most awful stories of its time. But that's still no justification for what they've done now.

Interestingly, almost a year before this happened, Kyle was paired up with Carol Ferris. On the surface, it would look like after all these years, Kyle was suddenly paired with a civilian co-star. But even then, given how long Carol's been around, it's still way too easy, and besides, she'd once been brainwashed into being Star Sapphire, who did have powers.

And as for the Omega Men, this is a shameful misuse of a decent team book by a decent veteran writer.

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"Edgy and different"? 90% of comic book plots now are variations of (1) killing off a major character (and then reviving him later), or (2) turning a hero into a villain (or vice versa). This latest travesty just combines the two.

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