"Team-Building Part 1: Actioning”
Writer/Artist: Martin Eden
Publisher: Ominous Comics
Regular readers will know of my fondness for The O Men, the long running and critically acclaimed superhero saga by Martin Eden. Each issue, Eden shows a mastery of characterisation that puts his professional peers to shame, and it's those exceptionally well-written personalities that bring the plots to life. This issue maintains that strong focus on characters, but Eden shakes things up a bit by delivering one of the most thrilling plots I've seen so far in this title; there's a definite sense here that all those well-rounded individuals are reacting to events beyond their control, and it makes for an effective change of pace.
The new O Men (Eden has resisted thus far the urge to follow Marvel's lead in adding the word to the title) are off on their first proper mission, to investigate and foil the plans of the mysterious Vultures, a secretive terrorist group who deliberately cause fatal accidents for some unknown purpose. Things go wrong, of course, but the writer employs a number of clever tricks to make the predictable, um, unpredictable; it's mostly about exaggerating the scale of the threat in innovative ways, so that a Tube bombing (for example) is made even more horrifying, but not through the obvious route of replacing the bomb with a nuclear or biological device or somesuch. The result is an issue that is thrilling to the cliffhangertastic end.
Eden's art is more than up to the task of conveying both the overt physical threats his O Men face, as well as the subtler moments of drama; the storytelling is spot on here, and his characters behave in wonderfully natural and lifelike ways. Sadly, an evocative car crash sequence in the second half of the issue has its dramatic imagery undermined by a rather ropey depiction of the vehicle itself, but on the whole there's little to complain about in terms of visuals.
This issue's cover proudly proclaims that the new story arc is an “excellent jumping-on point,” and I'd have to agree. The wild and unpredictable plotting is enough to grab anyone's attention, and there's just enough background material and exposition to make new readers feel welcome. Meanwhile, long term adherents to the O way will find old friends and new faces alike put through the wringer, and it makes for a thrilling read.
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