Written by Joel T. Lewis
The world thought it had seen the last of the Creator-Owned Ominous Press when it failed to garner support from a large comic book audience in the early 90’s. But at this year’s Denver Comic Con, Chief Creative Officer and originator Bart Sears and Editor-in-Chief Ron Marz unveiled their new partnership with IDW for the relaunch of the Ominous Press brand.
Attending the ill-timed Sunday morning grand relaunch panel, I was lucky enough to receive complimentary copies of issues 1-4 of Ominous’ Legendary reprint series which features original content from 1994 and 6 pages per issue of new framing content and Ominous’ World Premier preview issue. The 4-part Legendary series with its newly printed connective tissue narrative bears the telltale signs of an ambitious if unfocused vision for a comic book universe in the early 90’s. While Legendary is by no means as visually indecipherable as Image’s 1993 title Trencher (which I’ve written about previously) it’s 90’s art content bears a similarly challenging color and visual scheme which renders the text difficult to read and the action difficult to follow. However, the artwork by Andy Smith, Ray Kryssing, T.J. Tobolski, and Mark Pennington (in issue 3: Mael’s Rage), is rich and fascinating despite being visually challenging. The characters are rich and colorful, powerful and mysterious, and though sometimes it is difficult to assess what is going on from panel to panel, I can’t stop looking at them. Story-wise you encounter a similar sense of confusion reading the Legendary title as the vague gravity of the vintage material is intersected by the added framing material, and rather than firmly establishing the scope of the Ominous narrative the transitions between these stories further muddy the waters.
That being said, I am encouraged by what the content of the 4th issue of the Legendary title and the World Premier Preview issue indicate about the future of the Ominous Press storyline. Previously unreleased, Legendary 4: Death of Pheros marks the most polished and modern of the mini-series as the artwork is tasked exclusively to Andy Smith and creator Bart Sears. This issue’s framing material is better integrated and doesn’t seem to be battling the aesthetic of the 90’s source material as much simply because there is less of it to reconcile. The visuals in this issue are no less breathtaking for only having two contributing artists as the characters leap off the page, bold and imposing as ever. Also, the Preview issue was invaluable for understanding the grand ambitious narrative that Sears and Co. were attempting back in ‘94. The Preview clearly lays out the Ominous narrative of seven worlds, embodying separate popular sci-fi and fantasy genre tropes, in various stages of siege by order of a tyrannical god, the Dread Lord Omin, a prophecy involving world defenders called the Chosen with appointed allies called Champions, and the one true Chosen Auoro who is destined to defeat Omin and secure the fate of the seven worlds. Explained as it is by the Preview issue, the Ominous narrative is far-reaching and intricate, but nowhere near as confusing and vague as it is made out to be by the Legendary series.
The Preview issue also showcases the 3 flagship titles that Ominous will be relaunching with: Giantkillers, Prometheus, and Demi-God. Giantkillers, in my opinion the most interesting of the three, follows Arkon the Champion assigned to Auoro, the mythical Chosen One destined to defeat Omin. Arkon is cursed to be flung randomly across the 7 worlds and is separated from his charge for 7 years. Defeated and without purpose, Arkon re-embarks on his search for Auoro and his quest to defend her across the 7 worlds. As the narrative most central to the larger narrative of Ominous Press, Giantkillers is most likely the title which will determine the success or failure of the relaunch, and if the brief preview featuring excellent artwork and a tight internal monologue narrative is any indication, Ominous is on the right track. Written and illustrated by Bart Sears, Giantkillers is a title I’ll be watching out for in the coming months.
What do you get when you mix Greek mythology, the Matrix, and Gladiator? Chances are it’d look a lot like Prometheus. Written by Ron Marz and illustrated by Tom Raney, Prometheus is centered on a group of god-like heroes whose adventures and acts of might inspire a whole world. Unfortunately, this is all a facade aimed at subjugating and enslaving the population. This series follows the journey of the Prometheans after discovering their high fantasy lives were fabrications and their quest to free the people of their world from the grips of slavery. This playful variation on the Greek Gods promises to be a tangled weave of adventure and discovery and it will be fascinating to see how this world’s narrative ties into the larger conflict with Omin.
Finally, the Preview issue introduced the Demi-God series. Meet the self-styled Hercules, a hero equal parts Deadpool, Booster Gold, and Wonder Man whose ego and preoccupation with monetizing his newfound powers outweigh (at least initially) his desire to protect and defend the citizens of his world. Arrogant, obsessed with hawking merchandise, and touting his ‘Hero Brand’ Demi-God could very well be an interesting commentary on the selfie generation’s preoccupation with branding and celebrity punctuated with some epic fist fights with classic Herculean foes. The teaser we get in the preview features a great reimagining of Cerberus the three headed dog brought to life by artist Andy Smith. Demi-God is also written by Ron Marz and will be hitting stands soon.
Ominous Press seems to have learned from the mistakes of the past and are poised to make a promising 2nd attempt at popularity. I was lucky enough to speak to both Ron Marz and Bart Sears in person as the crowd thinned out towards the end of their panel and it was really cool to see the excitement and passion that these two veteran comic creators exhibited talking about a press all their own. Be sure to look out for Ominous Press titles coming soon distributed by IDC! I can tell you I will be eagerly awaiting Giantkiller no. 1!