OMAC1.jpgToday’s somewhat related, yet still wildly off-topic musing: When I was a kid, I couldn’t stand the art of Jack Kirby. I’m sorry! I didn’t know! It was the eighties, and there were essentially only two companies out there, both with about the same house style. In my mind, the best thing going for Marvel at the time was John Byrne, for DC it was George Perez. When I came across a stack of Kirby work (at Pat’s Book Nook, down by the river, in Salina), my first response was “Why are their fingers square?”

I bought them, of course. They were “old,” and at the time, I bought everything old. I remember a couple of issues of “The Sandman” in his seventies incarnation, one “Demon,” a “Mister Miracle,” and several different issues of O.M.A.C. The One-Man Army Corps (as his initials used to represent) was nothing like any comic I’d ever read. It was set in the future, but the future looked… weird. And the main character had a mohawk! (Bear in mind, this was years before it became the trendy haircut worn by Johnny Slash, Nuklon, and that guy from “Weird Science”). Ironically, it was Perez who really made me interested in the character, when he guested in DC Comics Presents a couple years later. Now, of course, I appreciate the bizarre and amazing spectacle that was Jack Kirby, and wish I still had those O.M.A.C.’s.

Bearing all this in mind, I was totally psyched when DC announced that OMAC (now renamed the “Observational Metahuman Activity Construct”) would get his own series, spinning out of “Infinite Crisis,” more so than any other title save “Trials of Shazam.” Much like Shadowpact, another IC spinoff, I felt that OMAC had more potential than had ever been tapped, and that the basic concept (a superhero whose power is broadcast to him from a satellite) was fascinating…

…which is why this series annoys me so much. Four issues into an eight-issue run, writer Bruce Jones hasn’t done much to define, explain, or make me like protagonist Mike Costner. I know he’s not a hero, at least not yet, and I know that he’s supposed to be an unlikely protagonist. But we’re piling loser moment after loser moment on the poor guy. His drug addiction is bad enough, but since all four issues have involved Mike fighting off the influence of the Brother Eye satellite, he’s been saddled with whiny, weak-sister dialogue.

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Since Mike is the last OMAC agent, Brother Eye is understandably desperate to get him back, and use him for… something. We’re still not clear on what, actually. Brother Eye is, slowly but surely, rebuilding himself from being ‘blowed up reel good’ by Batman and his amazing friends, and is gaining more and more control over his last sleeper agent. Mike, for his part, has spent the series to date… running. As the issue begins, he’s unconscious on a bus full of strippers, suffering through OMAC-related nightmares. Vienna, one of the ecdysiasts, has taken a shine to Mr. Costner, and has become his unofficial protector.

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“I can see you like him, Vienna, but sticking a belt in his mouth can actually cause more damage than a seizure, ya putz!” Of course, it’s all academic, as Vienna’s boss/driver decides Mike is a liability and pulls his gun, intent on killing our hero in the shell. Vienna convinces him to let her shoot Mike herself (?), but, in a cliff-hanger worthy of “Radar Men From The Moon,” all is not as it seems. (And is it a cliff-hanger if it takes place right in the middle of the book? Don’t ask me, I’m a liberal arts major…) Meanwhile, Brother Eye decides to test his newly repaired systems by destroying the Batman. It works, so he annihilates Superman, Wonder Woman, and The Inferior Five, takes over the world, then redubs himself Skynet, achieves sentience, and Reece has to go back in time to convince Linda Hamilton to sleep with him.

No, not really.

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Brother Eye missed, but I suspect that Batman will probably connect the orbital death ray with the satellite he misplaced, eventually. And, since nobody would buy a book called “The Adventures of Dead Guy in The Desert,” we check back to see Mike, last seen catching a bullet. Somehow, he’s now cruising in a convertible with a tattooed girl about to shoot him up with heroin? BUH? It seems that Vienna isn’t the cold blooded monster she seemed to be… Flashback!

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I’m pretty certain I saw this on “24” a couple of seasons ago. And the Matrix-effect on the bullet is just annoying. But, in any case, Mike’s alive and well, until Brother Eye realizes he’s about to be injected with heroin. Vienna, for her part, is in some sort of non-descript trouble with her handler and what seems to be the mob, a very unclear sub-plot, and it all ends with a car crash in the desert and our big reveal.

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That last image illustrates a couple of my problems with this book. Mike’s OMAC form is, essentially, a big blue shell with little to no defining features. The misshapen arms combined with the cyclopean faceplate remind me of nothing so much as Nimrod from X-Men, for some reason. Also, the colors chosen for the book are weirdly pastel oriented, which combines with the art to give the book a soft-focus feel. It’s very reminiscent of Josh Middleton’s work on NYX and Superman/Shazam, and feels very odd in a DC book, not to mention on a character inspired by the dynamic renderings of early 70’s Kirby.

The plot is very vague, to me, with only the struggle for control of Mike’s body really sticking with me after three full reads. Vienna is the kind of supporting character I dislike, someone who seems like she deserves her own book, and has more story to tell than the ostensible main character. I don’t mind the dark, adult overtones, but the whole “stripper with a heart of gold who falls for the mysterious drug addicted tortured soul” thing rings false to me, as does the whole mob plot. I know we’re only halfway through, but this feels kind of like the middle of a labyrinthine Bendis plotline for me. Seems like it’s designed to only make sense in the inevitable trade.

Bruce Jones is a writer whose work I’ve liked in the past, so I’m dismayed at how unsatisfying his work in the DCU (here, and in Nightwing) has been for me. I had to go back and reread the first three issues to figure out what’s going on (and also to remember the main characters NAME) and found them equally mystifying. Combine that with art that feels somewhat inappropriate, a main character who isn’t very heroic or engaging yet, and the much dreaded “wait for the collection” effect, and I can only give OMAC #4 one and a half stars. Hopefully, the second half of the book will pick up the pace… It’d be nice to see OMAC in the forefront of the DCU as a viable heroic character, if only in memory of Jack.

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Have you read OMAC #4? Discuss this issue in the Major Spoilers Forum.

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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