One otherwise ordinary day, five teenagers suddenly find themselves with the ability to mentally access all recorded public knowledge. Research studies, the entire Internet, every book and movie ever made… it’s all in their heads.
Four of the teens reveal their powers immediately and become media sensations before being whisked away to a safe house by the FBI. It seems great: they have a fancy villa to themselves, they’re world-famous, and they’ll never have to go back to school. But the fifth teen hangs back, not trusting the authorities. She’s right not to: some members of the FBI have sinister plans for these teens, and a secret organization is also desperate to get its hands on them. Will all the world’s recorded knowledge be enough to keep “the omniscients” safe? And how did they come to have this power, anyway?
Despite the series title, the teens aren’t actually omniscient. Most of them can only pull up information that is public knowledge, meaning their ability is not that much more useful than having a smartphone. One, however, can access information that is more private, like police reports, while another can see events in the recent past, even if they have not been recorded. The boundaries of their powers and the differences between them are a little fuzzy, with the teens not trying to parse or explain them until very late in the book. Still, their abilities have interesting implications, from telling them the locations of security cameras to effectively spoiling the ending of every book and movie in existence.
While they all live in America, the five teens hail from very different families and situations, as well as different races. One is the child of successful lawyers; one is an undocumented immigrant separated from his parents; one is the overworked and underappreciated daughter of a family struggling on the edge of poverty. These differences shape how they react to their new abilities and changing situations.
No single character emerges as the main protagonist of this story, though Jessica, the skeptical girl who does not rush to reveal her powers and join the other four, gets more solo page time than the rest. The book jumps between points of view, including not just the titular “omniscients,” but FBI agents and members of the secret organization that is after the teens. There are also brief, intriguing glimpses of an anonymous person who may be connected to how the teens got their abilities.
This volume has virtually no violence. Any tense situations are all comfortably resolved by the end (though there are hints that the mystery of these new powers will continue to be explored). There is no nudity or sexuality unless you count a couple of random guys hitting on Jessica. No romance, either—perhaps surprising for a story where a group of teens is thrown together with danger, superpowers, and little supervision. The complexity—and things like the FBI alluding to preparing “a little Guantanamo” for the teens—push this toward teen, rather than kid, territory. At the same time, there is some clumsy exposition, with characters explaining things to people who would already know them.
The art is detailed, clear, and expressive. The characters are realistic, and their poses, expressions, and movement feel natural, but with a slight comic-book exaggeration for emphasis. They are all distinct and easy to recognize. The backgrounds are fittingly realistic, detailed without being cluttered, and good use is made of color to add to the mood of various scenes and settings.
This is a mostly gentle story of five teens brought together by the strange power that changed their lives. They aren’t exactly superheroes; as of yet, they aren’t fighting crime, just trying to figure out their own circumstances. Fans of supernatural stories with relatable, good-hearted protagonists—and nothing too scary—might enjoy this volume.
The Omniscients, vol 1: Phenomena
By Vincent Dugomier
Art by Renata Castellani, Benoît Bekaert,
Europe Comics, 2020
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation: Belgian, Italian
Character Representation: African-American, Latinx