The British tend to have an interesting approach to superhero stories. We simply can’t tell a tale of people with extraordinary abilities without bringing real-world matters into it. Often this enhances what would normally be a collection of run-of-the-mill clichés into something more interesting. Martin Eden’s The O Men not only takes this approach, but it pulls it off quite well.
The O Men is the story of rather awkward superheroes who are thrown together out of a need to police other superpowered individuals. There is, of course, a Doctor O, but rather than the uber-competent super manager we expect from these things, our brave leader is fatally flawed in many ways. Not a single hero is exactly what they believe themselves to be, and it’s these faults that make the story compelling.
Eden is better known for his book Spandex, which features an all-LGBT team of colour-coded superheroes. The O Men is set in the same world as Spandex but feels more firmly grounded. The first book is clearly an early effort and it shows; the pacing is poor and there is way too much exposition early on. However, as the first book approaches the climax, it’s clear that the writer is a quick learner and it improves greatly. The work strengthens in each volume. Eden is also fond of a dense storytelling style; there are lots of nine-panel pages here, but it suits the simple art style well. This is a world of stark black and white morals, and the illustrations reflect this. More intimate moments are better detailed, especially the dialogue-heavy pieces. Each panel is carefully measured, and the minimalist approach works well here.
The O Men is something a little bit different and distinct from the many superhero books out there. Get the existing four volumes and binge, then wait for the final volume, coming out sometime next year.
THE O MEN VOLUMES 1 – 4 / WRITER & ARTIST: MARTIN EDEN / PUBLISHER: SELF-PUBLISHED / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW