There are two stories in Omega Men #4, the story of a hero and the story of a princess. Both stories may be true, but only one is honest. Kyle Rayner, a Green Lantern without his ring, tells his fellow prisoner Kalista his story about being given a power ring and of giving it up to bring peace to a war-torn star system. He tells her of his failures and successes as a superhero. And she listens, and she tells her story of being from a planet in that war-torn star system. She tells him of how she was forced to kill because that’s who her people were and demanded of her princess. They both huddle in their cell, seeking protection against the Omega Men, who have imprisoned them. But only one of them is a prisoner.
Tom King and guest artist Toby Cypress’ Omega Men #4 puts perennially dull Green Lantern Kyle Rayner in an interesting situation. He’s the Green Lantern of the 1990s when DC was trying to update all of their heroes to be kewler and edgier. The character has always been defined by his powers so when you take those powers away, what do you have? And the answer to that question isn’t quite clear yet as King and Cypress chip away at the shell of a Green Lantern to reveal that maybe all of them aren’t quite as free from fear as legend would have you believe. Of course, that’s the basis of almost any halfway decent Green Lantern story– it’s not that they don’t have fear, but that they can overcome it.
So here’s a Green Lantern, who is full of fear. King and Cypress’ prisoner of war story is about a man at one of the lowest points in his life who can only see his failures that have brought him to this moment in time. King’s Rayner isn’t a hero or a Green Lantern. He’s a prisoner, who has become a pawn of his captors. Even his cellmate, a princess from another world, is part of the game that the Omega Men are playing with their pet Green Lantern. Watching King and Cypress play with this character, manipulating him into the role where he thinks he may get to play hero, sets Kyle for either salvation or complete abandonment of who he was.
With a guest artist on this issue, King breaks away from the nine-panel grid he’s been using for this series. Cypress’ artwork gives both Rayner and Kalista the opportunity to be the larger-than-life characters in their respective stories. It allows both of them to be heroes regardless of what they may be now. And it gives Rayner, an artist himself even if it’s not mentioned here, a change to see both of them as he wants to see them. The Kalista he sees while she tells her tale isn’t a prisoner or a rebel. He sees the fairytale princess he hopes she is even as she laughs off the suggestion. Over and over again, Cypress reminds us of who these two people actually are when they’re not sitting in a prison cell.
Omega Men has been a war story so far but King hasn’t done a lot to define the sides of the war. The Omega Men and the Citadel, the rebels the and empire, are locked in this war but King’s focus is not on the war but on those trapped between each side. In this issue, on one side we have a Green Lantern without his badge of power and on the other side we have one of his manipulators, Kalista, the leader of the Omega Men, playing him like a finely tuned instrument. Just to show the unfairness of war, she tells him everything he wants to hear. King and Cypress give Rayner everything he needs in this issue to give him a reminder of who he could be without giving him the tools to be the man he wants to be. It’s a fairly cruel thing for the creators to do, almost giving Rayner and the readers something or someone to believe in. Unlike Rayner, we know who Kalista is and that makes this issue that much crueler.