Here We Go: If you’ve followed along with my reviews of Nomen Omen in the last half year or so, you’ll know it’s been a complicated relationship at best. For all the promise of the debut issue, and subsequent bright spots, it’s mostly revealed itself to be flawed at best and bordering on the irksome and overwrought. And as I sit here having gone over issue #5, all I can say is this love affair may be headed the way of disco and Tamagotchi.
Blergh And Feh: I understand fully and completely what the creative team (writer Marco B. Bucci and artist Jacopo Camagni) are attempting to do. Issue #5, especially, exemplifies not only the larger narrative — stories are basically real people, and they live among us in secret — but also their aims to tell a tale that marries our modern world with the magic of olden storytelling.
For example, in a small but important moment, King Taranis (that’s the ruler of the magical world, stealer of Becky’s actual heart) makes use of YouTube as part of his “evil” machinations, which is such an adorably twee thing that my stomach did a few back-flips. But the problem is that it’s not that interesting or even novel of an idea, and it feels forced enough to ruin any quaintness there might have been.
This whole series thus far has been predicated on the notion of magic and storytelling spanning generations and “realities,” and this is the best they can do to hint upon their major thesis and thus their most insightful observation into life. This is an intellectual peak of the story, and the best example of clarity among a slog of self-referential, overly obscure magic hullabaloo, and it just feels so deeply underwhelming. Perhaps there’s more of this dynamic to explore in later issues, to expand on the message as a whole, but then I fear the prospect of giving myself away to even more issues.
Maybe But No: If #5 did anything right (and that’s a small list), it gave us some essential insights into Taranis. We see him in the early days of mankind, flying around like a sexy crow, delivering story and magic to our burgeoning species. We then see him after mankind basically mucked it all up, and we’re left with the world as it is and magic operating in some level of secrecy. I’ve said a few dozen times before, but I love when a title provides sympathetic qualities to villains, as it grounds and “humanizes” them. The only problem is, if your whole series is about the intersection of magic and storytelling, and how it works right now, it doesn’t feel like anything’s been lost. Really, Taranis’ only issue would be that humans have this wondrous gift without he and his kin facilitating the process. So that basically strips him of any real sense of humanity and makes him what he’s always been, a heart-stealing fiend. Good idea in general, but then execution feels 100 kinds of bad.
Ugh, Becky: Without further beating a dead horse, it’s not even all that necessary to see behind Taranis’ “veil.” Especially because we don’t really know or even sympathize with Becky, and if we can’t do so with our beloved hero, any attempts with the villain seem fruitless. Even as this issue tries to further her story by having her embrace her fate as a mighty witch, there’s still very little reason to care for her. Even some of the early stuff with her friends, which proved a real source of organic emotion and actual chemistry, seems to have fallen away outright.
What’s left for “humanity” in this book is Becky, and she’s sort of always been flat and uninspired. It might be interesting to see her in this new “role,” but then it might just be another matter of the magic of this book actively snuffing out the human-like wonder that matters most. All the cool tricks in the world can’t save the narrative if it can’t make me feel something in any viable way for a hero who has spent the 5 issues flopping around with nary a sense of direction or valid insight. Oh, and Fer (her magical guardian) has officially become less an essential gateway to magic and more a never-ending sex joke, which might lead to the only genuine, lasting emotion (my intense anger) this book has generated.
Good And Bad (In Spades): If I’m being as real and earnest as possible, the best and worst part of this issue is actually the same moment. I won’t spoil too much, but it involves the abdication of the Queen of Manhattan and how that impacts the larger story of Becky and magic’s existence in our mortal world. What I will spoil is that said story thread involves 9/11 — yes, that most tragic event has become a centerpiece for this book’s core narrative. I’ll tip my hat to the notion of appropriating such an event, which does take some chutzpah, and doing so in a way to maintain the sheer gravitas of this massive tragedy. Even if it is a lackluster parlor trick, one that actively pulls on the biggest heart string in the cheapest way possible.
Further complicating the emotional reaction to 9/11’s inclusion is that, from a purely artistic standpoint, it’s one of the prettiest moments in the whole series (and there’s been heaps). It’s the subtle mix of shimmery colors and shadows and angles that builds up such a giant moment from an emotional and storytelling standpoint. It feels like a deeply visceral instance, and despite my issues with #5 as a whole, it gave me actual pause. And that’s pretty much this series to a tee: great moments rippling with potential amid a sea of disappointments; cheap story magic used to confuse and wow the reader; and creative gusto and outright cowardice and/or stupidity working in confounding alignment. The real magic of this issue, and the series as a whole, has been how they’ve fit all of this junk into such a tight space.
Shut Up, Coplan: Maybe I don’t like myself, but I assume I’ll stick with Nomen Omen through its remaining run (10 issues!) I’m no longer hopeful of what comes, and I either want to A) confirm my own theories and misgivings or B) test my willpower, like staring at a massive solar eclipse. But issue #5 confirmed a lot of things for me, namely that all the magic in the world can’t save certain stories from falling under the weight of their own shortcomings. Now could some just cast an “Avada Kedavra” and end all of this already?