Oh, My Aching Cranium!:

Jack Kirby’s OMAC Deconstructed And Reconstructed, Part Six

The cover for OMAC #2 lays things bare – “In The Era Of The ‘Super Rich’ – Mister Big Can ‘Rent A City’ For Assassination!”  And while, admittedly, this may have sounded a bit far-fetched as far as story premises go in 1974, well – considering the situation today, we again have to conclude that Jack Kirby was simply, once again, just a bit ahead of his time.

Oh, hadn’t you heard the news? The top 1% of wage “earners” here in the US control over 90% of the country’s wealth, and the richest 300 people in the world rake in more money than the lowest-paid 50% of the planet’s population combined. Clearly, we’ve got a massive problem here, folks, and it’s one that makes everything else seem trivial by comparison –especially when you consider that the wars we fight and foreign policy entanglements and sabre-ratting we get ourselves into can almost always be traced back to  policies designed to protect and expand the economic interests of that self-same “super rich” elite.

As for “renting a city,” well – take a look at the legalized bribery that is our campaign finance system and tell me that the rich haven’t just plain bought our whole country.

Now, where the hell is a real-life OMAC when we need him?

I’m afraid I can’t tell you where he is now, but I know where he was back in 1974 in the pages of the second issue of his short-lived monthly comics series – on his way to Electric City, a densely-populated technological metropolis in “The World That’s Coming” that’s been leased out for an evening of decadence and  debauchery ( in exchange for its citizens “not having to pay taxes for a year”) by the aforementioned “Mister Big” (who, strangely, looks a lot younger on the cover than he does in the book’s interior pages) – a crafty schemer who, we’re informed, “controls the world racket combine.”

As it turns out, though, he’s got a whole lot more than partying like it’s 1999 – or whatever year this book is supposedly set in – on his mind, and in actuality all the festivities are a cover for him to lure the One-Man Army Corps out into the open so he can kill him.

Okay, fair enough, that’s a lot of trouble and expense for him to go to in order to wipe out an enemy, but OMAC is no ordinary foe, is he? With Brother Eye and professor Myron Forest in his corner, he stands a pretty good chance of wiping out Mister Big’s operation for good – if they all survive the ordeal.

Fair warning right now – two of them don’t. But one comes back from the “dead,” and you can probably guess who that is.

Before tragedy strikes, though, OMAC gets a chance to meet his “creator” for the first time, and has something of an identity crisis right in his Electric City-located lab, confessing that “I have faint memories – of being someone else,” to which Professor Forest responds that “you were changed – by remote-controlled hormone surgery – from space!”  Later in the discussion, Forest reveals an appalling lack of bedside manner when he tells his confused protégé that he should “forget who you were” because “the world needs you as you are – a force for peace!”

Gee, thanks, doc.

In any case, following a brief skirmish with some military-types who are providing security for the event under the watchful eye of one Major Domo (who’s got a name that sounds like it’s straight out of a samurai movie, while Mister Big’s moniker sure sounds to me like something a bad guy in a Blaxploitation flick would be called), OMAC hitches a ride into town with a couple of revelers, who quickly sell him out, resulting in a deadly ambush right in Professor Forest’s  less-than-secure base of operations. Despite having all the power his mechanical satellite “friend,” Brother Eye, can pump into him, OMAC is unable to save Forest, and, in fact, even manages to get killed himself – for a short while,  at any rate, as hinted at a few short moments ago.

Fortunately for the rest of the inhabitants of “The World That’s Coming,” by then it’s too late for Mister Big– he’s been caught red-handed in the act of murder by faceless agents (who we’re told, again, “could be of any nation”) of the Global Peace Agency, even if his intended target isn’t actually, ya know, dead.

Hey – the book’s 40 years old, let’s not be too pedantic about pesky little details, okay?

All in all, OMAC #2 is a fun, fast-paced romp with some eerily prescient social commentary interspersed throughout. Kirby’s art is fluid and dynamic, and while I’m not a tremendous fan of the work of D. Bruce Berry – who takes over the inking duties from the always-reliable Mike Royer on the book with this issue – at this early stage he remains fairly true to The King’s pencil work and only occasionally takes some of the sloppy liberties that he would make a habit of indulging in later.  The end result is a comic that looks good, reads well, and has a lot to say not just about “The World That’s Coming” but, depressingly, the one we’re already living in now. Kirby was almost always right – even when you hoped he wouldn’t be.

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Ryan Carey maintains a B-movie (with occasional comics-related content) blog at trashfilmguru.wordpress.com, and writes about films and comics for sites such as unobtainium13.com, dailygrindhouse.com, geekyuniverse.com, and now Sequart. You can follow him on Twitter @trashfilmguru.

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