Oh Boy!: As a rule, I’m not a patient man; I eat pizza bagels when they’re still steaming. However, I’ve tried to be a teensy bit more reasonable when it comes to Nomen Omen, the “groundbreaking” new urban fantasy series from Image Comics. Issue #1 was a whiz-bang start, all sparks and shimmer to tickle the reader. But then, cracks appeared in issue #2 as the narrative got a little murky. Now, with the arrival of issue #3, the creators (writer Marco B. Bucci and artist Jacopo Camagni) have rewarded my patience with the one thing I wanted from the series: a little humanity.
Just Be Here, Man: There’s no denying that after two issues of some pretty dense world-building, I was left reeling from all the magic and mystery and real-world Instagram accounts. Luckily, issue #3 manages to address said whiplash by slowing things way down to focus on uber geek Becky, our heroine whose ticker was stolen, and Fer, the magical guardian whom she met in issue #2. On the one hand, this is a perfect time to build out parts of the universe, like how Fer and his brethren are all “stories incarnate,” and some of the ways that magic operates.
It’s also a chance to set some clear goals for the story (get Becky’s heart back) while also introducing new threads toward the end regarding Becky’s larger place (it may surprise you, unless you’re exceptionally good at following along). It’s not a ton of stuff, but there now feels like real solid ground under this ethereal story, and that’s going to go along way to shaping the narrative and keeping readers engaged. This is the first issue that I finished feeling like I have more answers than questions, and that makes me excited to delve deeper.
Friends Forever?: As part of the larger “make this more human” campaign, issue #3 spends a whole chunk of its run focusing on the dynamic between Becky and Fer. Is it a little tedious at times, with a lot of needless bickering and some gaps in their presumed level of familiarity. Sure, but then that’s just the book trying to be as efficient as possible in maintaining its pacing.
Still, there’s something about their vaguely flirtatious back-and-forth that’s quite endearing, and they’re able to balance more world-building with some great insights into their respective personalities. It’s an imperfect relationship thus far, and we get the sense they’re both well aware of who they are and yet still trying to find a proper balance in this rocky new terrain. Becky, especially, shines in these conversations, and we get a real sense of her wit and spunkiness like never before. It actually feels like we not only have a proper narrative arc but a solid hero to journey after said brass ring. Coincidentally, this is also the first issue to not give too much focus on Becky’s friends, and while I miss those elements, it’s about time our “main” heroes came into focus.
Do I Love It?!: As mentioned, Fer states that he and his brood are actually the personification of human stories, an insight that helps shape just what kind of magical universe we’re really dealing with. I think it really demonstrates the unique connection people have with some of these otherworldly elements, and that’s a great way to empower our species as the rest of these fairies and warlocks and alternate worlds start to truly emerge. And at one point, Fer basically comments that people don’t know about magic because they don’t care to; we’re so sure of our place in the universe that we tend to ignore something wondrous.
If nothing else, that seems like a great way to help explain the book’s tendency for building up the magical tidbits. This idea that our own sense of being is built in a way that empowers ignorance, and when we’re shown the true face of things, it can be a little jarring to process it all. Not processing, say, magical bridge dimensions, but our own assumptions about ourselves and the place we hold within. I could be just trying to explain away some of the narrative issues I harped on in issues #1 and 2, but then that just means I’m now connected to the material enough to make such excuses. And I’ll totally take pseudo-Stockholm Syndrome over a sloppy narrative any day!
A Change of Pace: If there’s one thing in this series that’s delivered thus far, it’s Camagni’s artwork. This time, though, there aren’t nearly as many beguiling uses of color, or otherworldly cross-sections of realities merging. That’s not to say this issue doesn’t have highlights, like the Becky-Fer saunter around the Other Side, or the introduction of Fatalia Macbeth (who plays a huge part in explaining Becky’s place in the magical hierarchy). But mostly, Camagni does a good job of expanding that much-needed human element. There’s a great section where Fer has to explain his backstory, and rather than use dialogue, there’s a series of pulled back shots/panels that perfectly capture the passing of time. It’s moments like that, where emotion and not magic are not the focus, that we can begin to engage with these characters in a real way. And like Becky herself, we’re better prepared for the magical onslaught that crashes with every new revelation.
Be Cool(er): Patience is probably a pretty handy skill to have acquired as someone who regularly critiques comic books. At the same time, it should be OK to demand something more from these titles, to hold them up to higher standards in an especially timely manner. That sort of back-and-forth is how good art is both made, analyzed, and properly consumed. In the case of this series, I can’t tell if that will pay off or if this is just a temporary reprieve. But at least Nomen Omen is finally casting its biggest magical spell.