If ever one needed additional proof of writer/artist Michael Avon Oeming’s eclecticism, Oemnibus would be it. A 300+ page trade paperback compiling several one-shots and short stories that Oeming has done during his 15+ years with Image Comics, it’s a treat for fans of the co-creator of Powers.
One of the ways this is a useful compilation is that even Oeming fans, including myself, may not have previously come across many of the works included here. For me personally, I actually hadn’t previously read any of them except Powers #1 and the Mice Templar one-shot story “A Tale of Kuhl-En.”
As with many compilations of this sort, the cumulative result is something of a mixed bag, but this is something that Oeming himself is already well aware of judging from his introduction: “I’ve not gone back to re-master, remix or bedazzle these works. They are presented as they were – warts and all, for I believe the search of perfection in art is the death of it.”
Oemnibus is also just as much a showcase for Oeming’s many collaborators, all of whom he graciously acknowledges in his intro: Bryan J. Glass (whom he also worked with on Mice Templar), Brian Michael Bendis, Daniel Berman, Neil Vokes and Ethen Beavers.
“The Parliament of Justice” by Oeming and Neil D. Vokes starts the collection off on a pretty strong note. Drawn in black-and-white, like many of the stories in this volume, it’s basically a steampunk riff on the Batman ethos with a dash of Alan Moore’s From Hell thrown in – wealthy Victorian aristocrat battles crime with his trusty Robin-like sidekick and tries to solve a series of grisly murders. There’s even a villain named the Philistine whose creepy grin resembles the Mark Hamill Joker from Batman: The Animated Series. But “Parliament” goes to some dark places where the Batman comics or even the Nolan movies could never go. While not particularly novel in its concept, “Parliament of Justice” has an autumnal resonance that is enjoyable to experience and is one of those one-shots that may have been better served by being lengthened to a four or five issue miniseries.
Then comes one of my favorite pieces in the book, “Six,” written by Oeming and drawn by Ethen Beavers, which reads like a cross between The Matrix, Inception and Blade Runner. Beavers’ style strikes me as being somewhat similar to Oeming’s and suits the noir-like atmosphere of this story nicely.
Next is “86 Volts: The Dead Girl,” but despite how big a fan I am of Oeming’s other collaboration with writer Bryan J. Glass in Mice Templar (see my series review) this one wasn’t quite my cup of tea. But like I said, I pick up these kinds of collections fully expecting not to equally like all the stories contained therein.
Powers #1, from Marvel’s Icon imprint, struck me as something of an odd choice to include in this collection but nevertheless the sudden appearance of its vibrant colors, after all those noirish B&W pages, will have you feeling like Dorothy stepping into Oz for the first time. Powers is of course one of Oeming’s most popular titles (with good reason) and for some readers it’s the one that opened their eyes to his work. For those who haven’t been reading the new series, this sample issue will surely have you running back to the comic shop for more.
Next is “Blood River,” another one of my favorites from this volume which has a strong beginning and middle but unfortunately falters somewhat at the end. Brian Quinn’s wood cut style art is exceptionally neat to look at and adds to the claustrophobic, acid-soaked horror of the story.
And speaking of art, a bonus tacked on at the end of this volume is a nice smattering of Oeming’s own art, mostly from Hammer of the Gods.
I don’t know that Oemnibus would be the volume I’d recommend to readers new to Oeming’s work. For a more cohesive introduction I might be more inclined to recommend Powers, the first volume of Mice Templar, or Red Sonja. But for those who are already Oeming fans, or just fans of Image Comics in general who appreciate the publisher’s creator-centered ethic, this is a great way to collect a bunch of one-shots that might be otherwise inconvenient to purchase separately.