The superhero team is a common sight in the comic book scene. A group can coordinate abilities to cover other’s weaknesses plus we can have more arguments and in-fighting to add to the drama. Now when it comes to the The O Men, it starts in similar territory but quickly becomes its own world in its own right. A group of super-humans trained in a mansion by a mysterious figure naming the team after his surname. Sounds familiar? It’s clear from the first few pages where this piece is influenced from, but it quickly gains its identity and generates an enigmatic atmosphere right from the off. The O Men opens the lid on the team members that are fragmented and distant from their glory days, the lifestyle of a hero is more of compromise and sacrifice than you might think. The character development flows at an even pace and raises many questions and ideas; adding new people, places, and predicaments that kept me heavily engrossed.
Vol.1 offers two story arcs that establishes the world and introduces a diverse list of characters. The emergence of super-humans is fairly recognised in the world and quickly a team was formed, the UK Ultra Knights (loving the UK setting by the way). As time passed the team disperses, with one member, Doctor O, setting up a government funded facility to train supers. Psi-Squad were the results of that system, but tragedy was soon to strike its members with deaths and disappearances leading those that were left to disband and live separate lives. Many years later, a mysterious figure frees their enemies of the past from prison and Doctor O brings the last three members of Psi-Squad; Rob, Grace, and Stuart, back together to defeat them once again. But old wounds run deep as they are quickly outmatched and captured. Doctor O calls upon two more super-humans; the mysterious Miss Scarlet, and the weather controlling Brainstorm to swoop in and save the day, suffering physical and emotional damage but a victory nonetheless. Upon their return, the team are warned by Doctor O of a great evil soon to be unleashed and The O Men are the only ones to stop them. But after all they have been through, are they ready to be a team once again?
And in the next story arc titled “Frenzy”, our group of heroes meet to celebrate a job well done. But their night out soon turns to a dangerous situation as a powerful former student of Doctor O’s, known as (well…) Frenzy, triggers violence and rioting as he feeds off the emotion of anger, manipulating anyone near him into acting out their violent desires. Meanwhile, Scarlet is tasked by the Doctor to keep an eye on Molly, another super that can manipulate the emotion of love. How are these two supers connected? And can our heroes overcome the rampant control of emotions that seem to drown the city in blood and bruises? And how does Doctor O react to coming face to face with a former adversary of The O Men that seems to be very much alive?
I find the premise shown here as a good change of pace from more conventional narratives. These aren’t the standard heroes, they are people that have sacrificed so much for a greater cause, and are still at risk of losing those close to them now. I feel that the ideas flow at a great pace, giving decent spotlight and background on the team and the kind of people they have become without becoming overbearing. For instance, we get to see the enigmatic Doctor O guiding the team through their hardship, yet is clear he still has many cards to play that will affect the success or failure of The O Men. Whilst with Grace, the telekinesis she possesses makes it difficult to trust people as she can look into the person behind the facade and their true selves. Trust and internal conflict a shared theme amongst our cast. And at the end of the day, you get to see how the turn of events affect their ‘normal’ lives and their relationships close to home. Those super humans are still human after all, just with a little something that makes their lives just a bit tougher.
Now in regards to the art style, I’ll admit it is a little hit or miss with myself. I can feel the strong graphic Noir design, but the consistency feels off with some frames that are more detailed and intricate than others. The close-up with the shadows obscuring their facial expressions are great, but then are followed by characters looking a little flat and underdeveloped. But Martin Eden acknowledges this constructive criticism himself as his introduction letter acknowledges this and I know he’ll improve this over time, the passion is there and so is the motivation.
So what do I think? Well, The O Men Vol.1 is a strong foundation for a more gritty and down to earth interpretation of the team dynamic. The characters despite having a variety of abilities feel more human and relatable than most, each bearing the emotional burden of their past that warps their vision of the future. And the underlying questions and current loose ends have me more than ready to crack on to the next volume to see if this team can work together once again, putting their personal problems and quarrels aside for a greater cause.
What do you think of The O Men? What would be your dream superpower to join the team with? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!