An Experimental Take On Pregnancy Horror: Nomen Omen #1 Reviewed

by Rachel Bellwoar

How do you know your life’s about to turn into a horror movie? In Nomen Omen #1 the tip-off is the green light that shows up when Meera and Claire pass by a car accident. Red apples are scattered on the road. There are two cars. One has yellow headlights, the other red tail lights. You can guess which one has a person inside.

Until the green light, Meera and Claire were a couple on a drive, talking about whether or not they should move to Manhattan. By starting the issue on a casual note, writer, Marco B. Bucci, gives readers a chance to hang out with these characters before their lives get exceedingly complicated. It’s a nice way of settling in and artist, Jacopo Camagni, really nails the pacing, which brings back memories of reading Alex + Ada and the way artist, Jonathan Luna, would show time pass between panels.

There’s one page this issue where Camagni just shows Meera and Claire taking turns with the driving. There’s no dialogue yet you get to feel how comfortable they are, in each other’s company. When Bucci does include dialogue, he uses a lot of ellipses. Characters pause and consider their words and it doesn’t roll off the tongue, because they’re reacting to things on the spot.  On the negative side, sometimes it feels like their speaking in monotone because there’s no end punctuation, and letterer, Fabio Amelia, has to overcompensate with bold words (he does a great job, though, later on with a scene where Meera has to use her medical knowledge, and her thoughts take on the form of a textbook).

Later you rethink whether some of these scenes were so ordinary after all. A bird in the sky seemed important, even in the moment, but then there’s the way Bucci drops you into this story, where you’re basically startled awake like Claire and not ready to ask questions. The series is called no men. It can’t be a coincidence that it opens with a campground manager (assumedly) kicking them out because he realizes they’re lesbians.

No men also applies– in an unexpected twist – to how Meera gets pregnant at the accident site. Like all pregnancy horror stories, there’s some concern that the devil might be involved (one of the creatures looks like Baphomet) but when it happens (and yes, I’m being deliberately obtuse) there’s light, so maybe the Devil’s not to blame?

You don’t really get to find out, because what happens next is a major time jump and Nomen Omen goes from leaving you unsure, whether the pregnancy happened, to Meera and Claire having a grown daughter in the future. It’s at this point that the comic switches to greyscale, as we learn Becky (their daughter) has achromatopsia, which isn’t another word for color blindness, but means she can’t see color at all.

Does this mean we’re seeing the world through her eyes? It’s a tough call. Just as the green light at the beginning of the issue could be real, or Camagni setting a tone, there are instances where color shows up at the end of the issue, where you’re not sure whether Camagni (with assistance from Claudio Lucania, and Fabio Mancini on page nineteen) is using it to draw your attention, or if Becky’s seeing the colors, too.

The title of the series turns out to be the name of Becky’s Instagram account (it’s a real account, so you can look it up) but, as to how illuminating that is, not very (yet).

Nomen Omen #1 is high concept stuff and a tough issue to judge in isolation. It’s either going to be fantastic, or not come together. One thing you can’t take away from the issue, no matter what happens, is how much Bucci and Camagni go for it. Their series is experimental, and like any experiment, you’re never sure what you’re going to get, but they’re doing something different, and that’s its own achievement (as is slipping in a reference to Twin Peaks with Becky’s friend’s cell phone).

Nomen Omen #1 is available now from Image Comics.

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