Doctor Cecelia Cobbina can process thoughts faster than the rest of us. After developing this power during an intense standoff with armed men while working in the Congo for Doctors Without Borders, Cecelia will analyse a situation and develop plans in a split second. She is the ultimate problem solver. So she commits to using this power to help others.
And there are ample opportunities for her to help. People are developing powers after being ‘ignited’. Some use these powers for good and others are lashing out with them. Cecelia travels around the country with her friend Mae looking for others who have been ‘ignited’. While Mae sees this as adventuring, Cecelia views what they do as a medical procedural. She knows something is wrong with their world and believes it is happening on a global scale. Once she understands it, she can help correct the problem.
Omni flirts with being a superhero book, but takes pains to say that it isn’t. Cecelia tells her partner there will be no capes and that she’s not that heroic. Eventually, they connect with a secretive group known as OMNI, who will provide much needed resources to help Cecelia continue her research. There is clearly much Cecelia needs to learn about OMNI as well.
The unique catch about Cecilia’s powers is that they are founded on Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences. For those unfamiliar, this theory posits that people have nine different intelligences. Cecelia is attuned to all of them. This translates to the comic page by showing her thoughts in multiple colors that correspond to Gardner’s theories, for example: red text boxes are related to bodily-kinesthetic analysis while orange text boxes relate to verbal-linguistic analysis and so on. On the page, these text boxes of various colors are visually appealing and confusing. The reader is constantly trying to remember which color corresponds with which intelligence. Yet it makes more sense the longer you read the book.
Cecelia is an interesting main character. She comes across as the smartest person in the room much like Tony Stark or Reed Richards, yet being an African American woman injects more realism into the plot than you would have in a traditional superhero tale. When she is confronted with a police standoff, one of her intelligences cites statistics on police brutality concerning Black men and women and it informs her actions. The story relies heavily on her intellect and ability to reason with others to get them out of tough situations. If only reasoned speech was as effective in real life as it is depicted in this comic, our world would be a better place.
The artwork by Alitha Martinez tells the story effectively and is very reminiscent of a lot of art from 90s and early 2000 comic books. It is not as detailed as more high profile comic books being published these days, but it does what it needs to do.
Omni would be a good purchase for teen or adult graphic novel collections. It’s an early book from a new universe created by Mark Waid for Humanoids, which usually publishes European comics. It’s got a Black, queer main character, an experienced writer and a Black artist attached. Future stories have a Black writer stepping in to write as well. It deserves to have time to find an audience. I’m concerned that the multiple intelligences angle may drag down the storytelling in the long term as it will have to be explained frequently, but it is definitely a unique plot point and an arresting visual.
Omni, Volume One
By Devin Grayson
Art by Alitha E. Martinez
Publisher Age Rating: (Teen 13+)
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NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+)
Character Traits: Black Lesbian
Creator Highlights: BIPOC Creator