Oh, My Aching Cranium!:

Jack Kirby’s OMAC Deconstructed And Reconstructed, Part Eight

What a difference an issue makes! If you’ll recall (and I promise it’s true even if you don’t recall), the super-satellite Brother Eye was noticeable only for “his” absence in issue three of Jack Kirby’s OMAC, but as we left things on that cliffhanger with our hero attempting to summon up the strength to smash into the mobile armored bunker of evil mercenary leader Marshal Kafka, it was pretty obvious that the former Buddy Blank was gonna’ need some kind of outside assistance since even a One Man Army Corps is still just — well, one man.

To that end, OMAC calls upon his high-tech “brother” for help right on the first page of issue four, and is met with a somewhat breezy reply of — I shit you not — “don’t sweat, OMAC. I’ll give you all the power you need!” Apparently they’re still using common 1970s slang terms in “the world that’s coming” —even the machines! — but who’s petty enough to gripe about how Brother Eye talks when he can do awesome stuff like sending pure cosmic power “down to Earth as a single beam,” and said beam can be picked up by OMAC’s belt (and here you thought it was just a fashion statement) “and broken up into organic elements “to juice up his body even more.

Needless to say, in no time flat OMAC has ripped the bunker open and the title’s promised “busting of a conqueror” has taken place. Next up for Kafka: a date in “super- court!”

It’s in this section of the issue that The King once again begins to demonstrate some of the uncanny prescience that has so far been a trademark of this series, as the GPA’s court for the “worst of the worst” — constructed atop Mount Everest, no less — is a pretty solid pre-imagining of outfits like the World Court, ICC, and the like. Kafka is “computer-booked” on an impressive variety of charges including mass homicide, execution of prisoners (where’s he from, anyway — Texas?), use of weapons outlawed by international agreement, and intent to subjugate and enslave, among other ambitious enterprises. The funny thing is, though, that the Marshal seems pretty unshaken by his predicament, and promises that an “avenger” will be by any time now to rescue him.  We all know about Kafka’s The Trial, but Kafka on trial? Doesn’t look like that’s ever likely to happen.

Proving that there’s little — if any — of the shy, timid Buddy Blank left in him, OMAC is determined to meet this “avenger” head on himself, even though the typically nameless, faceless Global Peace Agency functionaries that surround him advise against it. Finally getting a chance to pull rank thanks to his Five Star General status (again, in a world with no army), our Mohawk-sporting adventurer grabs a plane and takes off after what one of his GPA handlers has referred to as “a secret weapon developed for Kafka in a hidden laboratory — something biological — alive!” Enter: the Multi-Killer!

Or, at least, that’s what Kirby’s text refers to it as, but it’s probably worth noting that nowhere in the dialogue is this living weapon ever given a name. Hell, it’s not even clear what it is — as OMAC himself states: “Animal, vegetable, or mineral? It could be all three!”

We do know that “its great hide is as smooth as plastic — it gulps and ejects air, and moves like a flying octopus.” Okay, fair enough, we all “gulp and eject air,” but aside from that, it seems like a pretty tough customer. Plus, it appears to change shape as its battle with OMAC (a battle in which yet another aircraft is trashed — how long before OMAC is confined strictly to the ground for purely budgetary reasons?) rages on, and when Brother Eye powers up his “partner” one more time, the creature ups the ante by revealing its true nature as an animal (guess that answers the question posed earlier) that “eats matter and spits energy — any kind of energy!” As a matter of fact, OMAC even quickly discerns that “it can generate the ultimate energy” because “its eyes are cyclotrons” that in due course are “reaching critical mass” because “this animal can fission like a hydrogen bomb!”

Problem is, it can’t see so well when it’s doing this whole “fission” thing and ends up shooting up into the stratosphere and blowing up. Guess it’s a heavy dose of radiation poisoning and mass death for one and all, right?

Apparently not. Having escaped from the beast’s clutches by the sink of his teeth and with seconds to spare, OMAC is back in the GPA’s “super-court” facility in time to watch the explosion and commiserate with one of the agents there about how “it’s a rugged job to keep the peace in an age of advanced technology!”

Okay, pal, I feel for ya’ and everything, but geez — I would think a massive H-bomb explosion in the stratosphere is something from which the entire world will probably never recover. By rights, we should all be completely fucked at this point — shouldn’t we?

Still, despite that apparently none-too-well-thought-through ending, OMAC #4 is, yet again, another pedal-to-the-medal thrill ride from a script standpoint, with an admittedly cool as hell monster and some eerily precognitive things to say about genetic engineering. Far-fetched as a fission-powered creature may sound, it’s fairly well-established by now that certain quarters of the military-industrial complex have been trying to develop an organism that literally eats radioactive waste for some time here, and while that’s still a long ways off (at least as far as we know), it’s not such a huge leap from that to what Kirby is proposing in this book.

Well, okay, it still is, but it’s less of a leap than just imagining it from whole cloth as Jack did here. In any case, The King proves, again, to be ahead of his time — as he always was.

Artistically, Kirby’s in fine form here, as usual, with urgent battle scenes rendered with style and flair, fantastic future tech designs, and breathtaking geographical landscapes, and while D. Bruce Berry gets a fair amount of grief for his inks — much of it well-deserved — on this issue, at least, apart from fucking up the initial splash page to some extent, he does a pretty solid job. He seems to remain fairly true to Jack’s line work and attempts a low-grade approximation of Mike Royer’s inking style that isn’t spectacular, by any means, but certainly gets the job done. He’d do worse later, so I’m not going to complain too much about his efforts this time out.

Nor will I about this issue in general, despite its goofy conclusion.

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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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