Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has only one full tie-in novel so far. No comic book spinoffs have been announced, either, a big difference from last year’s glut of Force Awakens tie-in media. So there isn’t much out there for the voracious fan hungry for more stories of Cassian Andor’s adventures with K-2SO, Chirrut and Baze’s lives as Guardians of the Whills, or Jyn Erso’s hardscrabble adolescence.
I can’t offer you more about the characters of Rogue One just yet. But if what attracted you to the movie was its unflinching look at the real cost of the Galactic Civil War, then you should strongly consider picking up the collected trade of DC Comics’ The Omega Men.
Writer Tom King and artist Barnaby Bagenda give the reader everything one could want in a Star Wars story in The Omega Men, and it’s clear that they’re fully aware of what they’re doing. What else could you call a comic that includes a swashbuckling princess, a giant furry warrior man, a chipper robot, an infamous member of a quasi-religious galactic order of peacekeepers, exploding planets and totalitarian rule — than a deliberate homage to Star Wars?
Except this homage is set in the modern DC Comics universe — and it significantly expands the tonality of the “Star Wars story” in another.
The Omega Men uses its setting exactly as often as it needs to to serve its story — which is to say minimally. Its opening page of exposition (a title crawl, if you will) lays out its only connections to the broader setting: that the Vega star system is one of the only places in the universe deemed off-limits to the Green Lantern Corps. The same text explains that the six planets of Vega are the only known source of a material called stellarium — and stellarium is the only known way to keep a planet’s core from naturally decaying into instability, a substance that rocketed into the realm of “priceless” after the destruction of Krypton just a few decades prior.
Now, Vega’s once-stable government is rocked by the violent actions of a small group of insurgents who call themselves the Omega Men. And former Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, now the universe’s only White Lantern, has been granted leave by Vega’s government to attempt to broker peace.
It does not go well for him.
The Omega Men want to show Rayner their side of the situation — the reason that there can be no peace while the Citadel stands. Or ... maybe they just want him as a pawn in their play against overwhelming odds? It’s a question that King and Bagenda leave quite open as our story begins, and for a good long time after that.
The Omega Men is a story, like Star Wars, where the insurgents are the protagonists — but the Omega Men are never fully heroic. Their war can, like the conflicts of the first and the newest Star Wars trilogies, be traced back through discrete but clear events that have led inevitably to decades of bloodshed. In the system of Vega, this idea is a major religious belief in the unknowable deity known as Alpha, the original cause that created the universe.
“There is cause and there is effect,” Primus — the nominal leader of the Omega Men — tells the audience early in the book. “To understand an effect, you find the cause. Then you see what caused this cause, and what caused that, and so on. You trace it back. Eventually you come to a thing without cause, a first cause, a beginning.”
Knowing the sources of their war doesn’t do anything to help the system of Vega. The only thing that will help is ending it, and that’s what the Omega Men aim to be: an end at any price, whether it’s their lives, their principles, or the lives of others.
Tom King began his career in comics as a Marvel and DC comics intern but didn’t start writing comics until 2012. In between, he joined the CIA’s counterterrorism unit shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, and worked there for seven years. The connection between his Omega Men and many of our modern global conflicts is clear — but it’s managed so much more deftly than a simple swap of “oil” for “unobtanium” and “The Middle East” for a fictional analogue.
At the end of Rogue One, we know that the that Rebels eventually bring peace to the galaxy and prevent further mass destruction. But The Omega Men isn’t a prequel, and at the end of its story King and Bagenda give us no such assurances. It’s a thrilling read that’ll give you plenty to think about — and it’s that unicorn of the superhero comics world, a self-contained story that doesn’t require existing knowledge of continuity.
So if you’re looking for something like Rogue One to sink your teeth into, you might want to head to a comic book store.