I’m currently thinking about Batman in dialogue with Christian theology, but over the weekend I had the opportunity to read the 2015 re-rebooted Omega Men series from DC featuring the then White Lantern, Kyle Rayner. I’m most familiar with the Omega Men connected to the Silver Age Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, in the 1980s but somehow missed the rebooted New 52 version in 2011. That’s all moot now, as the 2015 version is now canon, at least for the moment.
In this particular story, the setting is the worlds of the Vega system where the Guardians of the Galaxy have no authority, and in which Kyle Rayner goes ringless (powerless) to attempt to broker peace between the Citadel (an oppressive corporate entity that holds the worlds in thrall) and the Omega Men (who are portrayed as terrorists disrupting the peace in their war against the Citadel). On the face of this, this would be a typical superhero attempts to broker peace narrative, with the superhero typically finding a via media for the parties to choose after everything has melted down.
What makes this story a little different are two things: firstly, the brokered peace isn’t achieved, with victorious Omega Men, having been aided by Rayner rejecting his third way and becoming tyrants themselves; and secondly, this is one of the few places where we get to see Rayner express his own religious faith in response to what is going on around him. It was the latter matter that I found particularly interesting.
The Omega Men narrative is framed in the context of Vega’s religious system based on the worship of two god, Alpha, who is the beginning of all things, and Omega, the one who will usher in the end of all things. Into this Rayner is thrown, at times dealing with a corrupt priestly systems and seemingly nihilist elements of these faiths. In the midst of his powerlessness, Rayner prays at various times:
This is the first time, I can remember Rayner praying like this – maybe now he does because of his experiences on the other side of the Source Wall where he encountered the DC Comics equivalent of God? That said, it comes out framed particularly in the form of his grandmother’s Catholic faith, recognised here by the cross of hers he wears around his neck. That cross becomes a recurring object in the narrative, in frame whenever Rayner’s faith in God and himself is tested.
Rayner’s apparent frustration with his faith and his own self-image comes through in his engagement with those who follow Alpha and Omega, in this case with the Omega Man, Tigorr, where his physical battle is caught up with his spiritual side.
Ultimately, Rayner’s mission to Vega fails. Those who were oppressed rise up with Rayner’s help and overthrow the Citadel, but then they reject his third way and choose the path of vengeance becoming the very oppressors they sought to overcome. At the end, Rayner is left contemplating the body of the Citadel ruler, offers a broken benediction of sorts for him, and casts his grandmother’s cross into the ruler’s blood where is it subsumed in the midst of the omega symbol. I’m left wondering if Rayner gave up his faith here – cast into the end of things, or perhaps, he offered the token of his faith to this alien oppressor to leave as a symbol of hope in the midst of this tragedy where there were no winners and only losers.
The Omega Men was outside of the main Green Lantern continuity and maybe the events and character defined here won’t turn up again, but I’ll be looking for them.