Once a month, I’ll be writing about the things I’m reading in which Batman is (gasp) absent. My hope is that I can turn you on to some good stuff that maybe you wouldn’t have checked out otherwise. Or maybe I’m too weird and you won’t dig anything I pick. Either way, be sure to hit the comments and we’ll agree or disagree with all of the clarity and reasonableness that Internet comment sections afford. 

The King is Tom. Long live the King!

This month, I’m shining my big, batless spotlight on Tom King. I know what you’re thinking: he’s written Grayson, and Robin War, and there’s a decent chance that he could be writing an even bigger Bat-book in a few months’ time. But what you may not realize is that King has been quite prolific outside of Gotham, delivering a diverse body of work that is consistently at a high level of quality. And hey, if you like Grayson, Tom King is your perfect gateway to a larger world of comics.

Peace for Vega

image

My first exposure to King’s work was the short preview for his under-appreciated (at least from a sales perspective) run on The Omega Men. I had no interest in the book when I saw it solicited, but after reading this little teaser, I was instantly hooked.

Far, far away from Gotham, the Citadel of the Vega System exercises brutal control over its inhabitants. They are opposed by The Omega Men, a band of revolutionaries dedicated to the overthrow of their oppressors at any cost. When the Citadel enlists the help of lantern Kyle Rayner to help mediate, The Omega Men seize the opportunity to use Rayner to further their own agenda. A bloody interplanetary chase ensues as the might of the Citadel seeks to snuff out the rebellion that threatens to destroy it.

The Omega Men has been compared to Star Wars, and rightfully so; but in some meaningful ways, I would venture to say that King’s tale eclipses the more well-known saga. In Star Wars, the good guys are easy to like, and they never really wade into any gray territory (the worst offense is shirking responsibility, and even that is typically redeemed). In The Omega Men, the methods of its titular band of freedom fighters are a frequent source of unease to me as a reader. King’s story poses uncomfortable questions about right and wrong, and when (or whether or not) it is appropriate to answer brutality with brutality. He doesn’t give any simple answers, either, leaving the drawing of conclusions to the reader. King never makes the mistake of overtly referencing current events, and yet this book manages to feel incredibly relevant, perhaps because of the timeless, fundamental questions that it asks.

Couple all of that with some truly stunning work by interior artists Barnaby Bagenda and Romulo Fajardo Jr., and cover artist Trevor Hutchinson, and The Omega Men is something altogether special. I’ll be sad to see it go in a few months, but I’m grateful for the chance to enjoy it as it’s been released, and I’m very happy that DC reversed its decision to cancel it much earlier.

Behold, George and Nora

image

As for my goal…well, it sounds crappy, but I have no desire to make art. At the end of the day, I want people to be taken away from whatever it is and read a comic book and relax a little bit. If they learn something from it, that’s fine. But the first goal for me is always [to entertain]. Life’s hard enough, but read this comic book and maybe it’ll help you out.

– Tom King

Up until a few months ago, I would have said that The Omega Men was my favorite book. All of that changed with the release of The Vision #1, the best book to come out of Marvel’s All-New, All-Different marketing gimmickreboot. The Vision is high and lofty stuff, examining concepts of identity, xenophobia, and humanity itself. True to the quote above (which comes from an interview with Jason Inman on another great King book, The Sheriff of Babylon), it is also very entertaining, with a high-tension plot, a robotic-yet-whimsical narrative voice, and just enough of the sort of situational comedy you would expect when dealing with a family of synthezoids trying to pantomime middle-class American existence in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. And yet in spite of King’s decision to eschew “art” as a goal, he has created something deeply emotional and meaningful. He’s taken the skillful social and human commentary of The Omega Men and applied it to a scenario that feels far more familiar (and far more intimate).

Interior artists Gabriel Walta and Jordie Bellaire masterfully bring King’s scripts to life with subtlety and intricate symbolism. Each issue has been worth multiple reads, with plenty of surface-level details to savor, and plenty of progressive discovery with each subsequent look. The Vision has me very excited for whatever big project DC is sure to have King on next.

King of the world (of comics)

So that’s a look at some of what the incredibly talented Tom King is up to outside of Gotham. The Omega Men: The Complete Series will be released in August (or you could catch up digitally and read the final few issues over the next several months). The Vision is currently ongoing at Marvel, but King’s recently inked exclusive deal with DC will see the series coming to a close soon. You can wait for the trades, but honestly, it’s such a good book, and each issue is so worth savoring, that you’d do just as well to get caught up and start reading it now.

I’ll be back next month with another look at comics that don’t contain the Caped Crusader. In the meantime, here’s what some of the rest of the batman-news.com review team is reading. Make sure you leave a comment and tell us what we’re missing in the wider world of funny books!

Jay: The Legend of Wonder Woman

legend-of-wonder-woman-1-cover

What could have been a simple retread of Wonder Woman’s origin is instead, in the deft hands of writer and illustrator Renae DeLiz, a genuinely compelling tale of Diana of Themyscira. With deliberate pacing and gorgeous illustration, DeLiz is so skillful in focusing on the personality of Diana that it’s easy to forget she’s not yet Wonder Woman, but instead a girl learning to become the hero she’s destined to be. Easily the best Wonder Woman book I’ve read in years, once completed it’s sure to become a standard in Amazonian storytelling excellence.

Josh: The Sheriff of Babylon #4

Babylon

[Note: I didn’t tell Josh to pick a Tom King book, but I’m glad he did. – BW] If I were only allowed to recommend one comic for people to read, it would be this book! Over BatmanJustice League, Grayson, Midnighter, you name it… this would be the book I would recommend. Tom King delivers a masterpiece that focuses on the life of an American soldier after 9/11, sent to train soldiers and cops in the Middle East. This book looks and reads like the storyboard for an Oscar film… Yes, it’s that good!

Josh: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #24

Buffy 24

The official continuation of Joss Whedon’s hit TV show, Buffy builds on the stories and characters that were established through seven seasons of television, and two previous seasons of comics. Character-driven, and superbly written by Christos Gage, this is a book that needs to be on your pull list.

Josh: Angel & Faith: Season 10 #24

Angel 24

In tandem with Buffy, Angel is also a continuation of Joss Whedon’s critically acclaimed television serious, though this book has separated itself from its TV foundation to align with the dramatic conclusion of the Buffy Season 8 comic. With a darker, more adult tone than Buffy, Angel and Faith continue their journey for atonement in a narrative where anything can happen at any time.