by Matthew Pook
(for Mutants & Masterminds, Silver-Age Sentinels, & Champions)
Published by Z-Man Games
Written by Cynthia Celeste Miller, Shelly Bateman, Trever Harwell, Benjamin Rodgers, Jordan Steelman, Bryan "Mortis" Wylie, Jon Miller, Jon Ogden, George Todorovski, Kirt Dankmyer, & Eddy Webb
144-page black & white perfect bound book
It is a good time to be a fan of the superhero RPG, with three excellent games to be found on the shelves of your local gaming store. For fans of the d20 System, Green Ronin Publishing’s Mutants & Masterminds is the RPG of choice; those wanting detail can find it in Champions, the current incarnation of a classic favorite powered by the Hero System 5th Edition; and Silver Age Sentinels takes players back to the Silver Age of comics in style and feel. Things get better with the advent of the Mutants & Masterminds "Superlink" concept, which allows companies other than Green Ronin Publishing to support the RPG, something that Z-Man Games has taken advantage of in publishing Omlevex.
The supplement, written by the author of Cartoon Action Hour, goes one step further than being a Mutants & Masterminds Superlink release. Not only does it include stats in its write ups for the d20 System’s premier superhero system, it also gives, in a pair of appendices, the stats for all of the setting’s characters for both Champions and Silver Age Sentinels. And that is just the icing on the cake!
Omlevex is a superhero supplement set firmly in the sixties and the
Silver Age by way of a central conceit: the Omlevex Comics Group. The book is actually written as a resource for several titles published by one of the greatest companies of the time, the Omlevex Comics Group. It even has a forward by the publisher’s founder and owner, Carl Murphy. But Omlevex is also something more. Not only is it the name of the publisher, it is also the name of the setting, the Omlevex Universe. Further it is the name of a mineral unique to said setting.
The Omlevex mineral was brought to Earth by the very same asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. The impact left a volcano and an island chain some 450 miles off the coast of the American state of Georgia. Discovered by Columbus and later colonized by the French and then the English, the islands of Metazon have at times been part of and independent from the USA, but today remains part of her territory without real representation in Washington DC. The islands and their inhabitants have been a thorn in the USA’s side, with their independent streak and ready acceptance of superheroes and their kind.
Although Omlevex can be found anywhere on Earth, the super power-bestowing, strangely glowing mineral is found in greatest concentration on the islands. Super powered individuals have been known since the 18th Century and fought on both sides in the Civil War, and then the First World War. Fewer fought in the Second World War, as they were generally young and inexperienced. More recently and in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Caribbean communists from Cuba have occupied the south side of the South Metazon Island, contesting access to a fresh outcrop of Omlevex.
Metazon, its islands and settlements are a series of extremes. The fading and corrupt post-industrial town of Bay City, along with the island’s cultural and financial center, Corrington, dominates East Metazon. Seaboard, situated on West Metazon, rivals Hollywood for its media output, and besides attracting the tourists who want to catch a glimpse of the stars and superheroes, both wannabe actors and superheroes travel there to find themselves a good agent and make it big. On North Metazon, Middleton is the location of a dimensional nexus and home to a thriving community of students of the arcane, both fake and genuine. Between all of the islands are the Free Lands of Central Metazon, the location of the volcano where the asteroid hit. It is an ungoverned land, much like the Wild West in nature. Finally, Valhalla is a wondrous scientific paradise floating in the waters between the islands.
After detailing the history and geography of the Omlevex Universe, the supplement looks at the five greatest titles published by the Omlevex Comics Group. They each follow the same format, giving the comic book’s premise, the history of its creation, its supporting cast, and most notable issues. Full sheets and descriptions are then given for all of the comic’s characters. These write-ups include suggestions for updating the character to use in the less black-and-white, morally defined world of comics of the nineties and early 21st Century.
The first of the fictional publisher’s titles was “Drake Einstein,” about an out of work actor who turned to heroic crime fighting acts to make him bankable. In this he was aided by an inventor, who built the rocket sled and other gear that Drake uses each time he goes into action. The second was “American Gargoyle,” which for a sixties comic was very different, in that it featured a hero who looked like a monster, and a villain who appeared almost as often as the hero. “Cliffhanger” mixed espionage and super heroics with an aging secret agent fighting crime using a wide variety of gadgets, but particularly a jet pack. More interesting was “Lacie Delmont,” a lady private detective who faced a variety of supernatural creatures, from Spring Heeled Jack to the vampire Count Darkas, as well as zombies, ghosts and werewolves. The final title is the team up book, “Freedom’s Trio,” whose most notable opponent includes the very Galactus-like “Grunn, Bridger of a Thousand Worlds” who built an empire of a thousand worlds connected by bridges and gates. There are lots of good villains here for the GM to play with, perhaps the best and most cohesive selection being faced by the American Gargoyle.
Both player and GM alike receive their own chapters discussing their role in playing and running a Silver Age set game. For the player, this covers how to create a suitable hero - someone who would do the right thing, save lives, but would never take one, and who could be counted upon to save the day if all else failed - all built around a single concept. For the GM, this is a broader look at the genre and its time - the Red Scare, its sense of optimism, the telling of simple and fun stories, and so on. It rounds out with a listing of the standards of the Comics Code Authority, something that the publisher decided to ignore, and instead adhered to The Omlevex Code of Decency, also given. In fact, the publisher actually named one of the villains in “Drake Einstein” Walter Freldorn as a nod to Dr Fredric Wertham, the man whose book, Seduction of the Innocent, led to the self-imposed adoption of the Comics Code Authority.
Physically, Omlevex is an eye-catching book. The cover really catches the free-wheeling feel of the Silver Age and depicts many of the Omlevex Universe characters in glorious full color. Inside, the book does not quite work as well. The black and white line art is not always handled well, suffering all too often from pixellation - especially the full-page pieces that depict the front covers of the first issues of the five titles discussed. The other detracting factor is the use of images behind the text, which although reminiscent of the bleed through from one page to the next in Silver Age comics, is a little wearisome on the eye.
Yet much of the art captures the cheesy feel of the Silver Age and the
storytelling style. Indeed, Omlevex is a smorgasbord full of
sixties comic goodness. This is helped by the book’s central conceit,
pleasingly executed to give what is a very Marvel Comics- like tribute to
the Silver Age. Not just a solid collection of heroes and villains, but a
slick setting to boot, and that for three game systems. As Omlevex Comics
Group would say, "What are you waiting for Firm Believers?"