THE NEW 52, Week 2:
In the pantheon of characters created by Jack Kirby during his 1970’s tenure with DC, there were a wonderful few who functioned in worlds all their own, with no connection to the rest of the DC universe. There was an instant accessibility and feeling that you were getting every bit of the story you needed within the pages of one book, without any of that juicy Kirby crazy action suffering from that isolation.
Of these, one that continually broke ground on crazy, single-issue action concepts was OMAC. Of course, that was many crises and stories ago.
The current incarnation of OMAC lives in a world united with the rest of the New 52. As with the rest of the DC rebirth, we’re not really given much insight into what’s carrying over from the prior canon into the new canon. O.M.A.C. gives us a little more than most. Unfortunately some of that is looking like we’re not going to get back to your father’s OMAC any time soon.
Kirby's version was originally set in the exciting “World That’s Coming," where we met a nebbish named Buddy Blank. When the Global Peace Agency needed an enforcer, Buddy would be hit by a bolt of energy from the sentient orbital satellite Brother Eye to become the super Spartan hero OMAC.
For those not already initiated, OMAC originally stood for One Man Army Corps. Throughout the history of DC’s revisions and relaunches we saw this recast as Omni Mind and Community, and Observational Meta-human Activity Construct. (Ironically we’re not actually told if it stands for anything in this latest incarnation, though the story title is "Office Management Amidst Chaos.")
OMAC had a Mohawk before Mohawks were cool, and the stories were always edgy little morality exercises on how coming technology would create new social or technical problems that needed intervention and correction.
After Kirby left DC, revisions were, naturally, progressively worse with the capper being the most recent OMACs that were created from a Batman failsafe gone bad. The less said about that, the better. Oddly enough, the OMAC that showed up in the animated Batman: Brave and the Bold cartoon series hearkened back to the original, which does tell you a lot about all the incarnations between.
O.M.A.C. in the 52 universe has its story and art co-credited to Keith Giffen and Dan DiDio, which should both excite and scare you. The book has as genuine a Kirby feel to it as any post-Kirby Kirbyesque efforts, which is to damn with faint praise. Women in particular look awkward, where Kirby would have made them simultaneously sensual and dangerous. We have all the standard action visualizations, crackling energy and crumpling scenery.
Any taken in isolation might measure up, but the total of them falls slightly short. While it’s better than the current Kirby Genesis from Dynamite, coming up short here makes us miss The King that much more.
The new storyline seems to be aligning a number of bits of prior canon in this new 52 world. In fact, we have so many agencies, characters, and plot devices in this one issue, where Kirby would have taken an issue each to introduce just one of them.
It’s bizarre that in the end it feels so empty. We have a public facing Cadmus Industries, and the secret hidden Cadmus project that has been woven into so much of the DCU. We’re introduced to Lord Mokkari, who may or may not be retaining his prior allegiance to the New Gods villain Darkseid. The DNA Alien Dubbilex is ushered onto stage far too quickly; none of his mystery is maintained. We even get to see that the fan-favorite Build-A-Friends are present, although Build-A-Fem-Bot might describe them better now.
But the worst is yet to come...
The main character Kirby created was kind of a cross between the Silver Surfer and Captain America, with a good dash of The Guardian. He’s here to set things right, with words if possible, but able to back things up with a power charge from Brother Eye. He’s here to stand in for us, to marvel at the challenges technology and social change have brought about first, and hit them later if necessary. Buddy Blank might be a skinny Steve Rogers type in the future world, but his heart is in the right place and his heart doesn’t change when he becomes OMAC.
Unfortunately, from cover to last page of this new effort we have a mono-syllabic raging… well.. HULK of a character whose sound effects outnumber his dialog. Sure, Kevin Kho (not Buddy Blank) appears to be manipulated by Brother Eye, not at all partnering with him, and perhaps that will soften with time as Hulk… er… O.M.A.C. benefits from the love of a good woman or some other cosmic awakening.
So like too many of the New 52, this book has some potential to get better, but there’s a lot that’s been injected that will need to be overcome. This ain’t “The World That’s Coming” any more.