I suppose if we were in the business of drawing parallels – which, I’m reliably informed, is something that comic book critics and scholars (whether or not I fit into either category, much less both of them, is something I leave for you, dear reader, to decide) are supposed to do at semi-regular intervals – then we’d have to say that issue six of OMAC represents Jack Kirby’s highly-truncated sci-fi version of Hercules’ adventures in the underworld, with former Crime Cabal stooge Buck Blue as his less-than-willing sidekick. Given that much every type of modern (and post-modern, for that matter) story has its roots in Greek mythology anyway, all I can say here to those who still cling to the easily-disprovable notion that Jack “wasn’t a very good writer,” is that his grasp on literary history is at least as solid as that of his contemporaries. In fact, regardless of how one feels about Kirby’s dialogue (which, again, isn’t so far removed from what was to be found in other comics at the time and is frequently denigrated by Stan Lee partisans solely for the purpose of over-stating the contributions made by “their guy” – you know, the one who charges a hundred bucks a pop or more to sign his name to other people’s work at comics conventions), I would challenge anyone out there to name another creator in the entire history of the medium who had as intuitive a sense of the mythic.
I think I hear crickets chirping. Let’s talk about this issue, then, shall we?
The King’s dynamic cover (a re-colored version of which was used as the cover image for DC’s omnibus collection of the series back in 2008) gives a reasonably honest accounting of the proceedings inside, even if the bound-and-gagged damsel in distress, wrecked subway train, and poised-to-strike monsters might hyper-stylize and hyper-sexualize things a bit, but hey – this was 1974, and rather than functioning as “stand-alone” art pieces that bear little resemblance to a book’s interior contents as is so often the case today, covers at that time more frequently than not were used to provide the sizzle that sold the steak (apologies to any vegetarians who might be reading this). As such, then, it can hardly be called “misleading,” because although the bound blonde makes a quick departure after just a few panels and the “sickies” (that’s what those mutant-looking things are called) prove to be dispatched with rather easily, this comic is still a full-throttle, breakneck affair, and the subway cars end up meeting an even more spectacular demise that the one pictured atop this article.
Picking up the action immediately where things left off after number five, OMAC and Buck are headed to “The Terminal,” a clandestine medical facility where the Crime Cabal’s leaders are getting set to roll out their “new bodies for old” scheme with the help of a stolen (from where is never said) super-computer called the “Medi-Mind,” a foolproof device that, according to one of its technicians, “is so simple a kid could run it!”
Of course, only the “super-rich” of “the world that’s coming” can afford these eternal youth-type transplants, and they do require the participation of a young person whose consciousness is destined to be wiped out in the procedure, so we’re talking about a program here that, to paraphrase Freud’s famous remark about civilization, “has no volunteers, only conscripts.” OMAC manages to rescue one of those would-be conscripts – the bondage model from the cover – from the clutches of some muggers when he and Blue (who’s always looking for a quick and convenient exit from being forced into playing hero, as you’d expect) first enter the old abandoned subway lines. But once the so-called “Gang Train” that will take them to “The Terminal” pulls up, it’s gonna take more than a few well-timed punches for OMAC to win the day.
To that end, once our Mohawk-adorned protagonist has dealt with the street thugs and sickies (who, we’re told, are actually paid by the Crime Cabal to undergo mutation in order to essentially function as a full-time “monster squad” underground and scare off any busybodies – damn, the gap between rich and poor must be even more extreme than the first few issues of this series had led us to expect), he gets a “series of beams” zapped down to him by the ever-vigilant Brother Eye, and he’s suddenly ready to punch through walls again. Buck is understandably amazed by what he sees, with OMAC providing the handy shorthand explanation that “It’s like taking your vitamins, Buck – all of them – in one big barrel!” All of which makes me wonder – I wonder if he could get his Scotch served up that way, too?
Needless to say, the non-super-powered humans at “The Body Bank” don’t stand much of a chance against the One-Man- Army Corps, and there’s no real “fight” of any sort at the climax here. Freshly powered-up thanks to his satellite companion, OMAC just needs to bust in and round ‘em all up, which he manages to do before their first “operation” – the transplant of aging crime boss “Tough” Tully Morgan’s mind into a healthy, youthful, Adonis-type body – can be completed. Buck goes turncoat on our hero by pointing a gun at his head and making a cheap, empty threat, but that goes about as far as you’d expect. Curiously, though, OMAC refuses to turn his Quisling companion over to the GPA authorities, and instead reunites him with his captured girlfriend – which, come to think of it, might be an even more cruel form of punishment if you remember back to how he tried to sell her out last issue – and hell, even if you don’t, I’m sure she recalls it quite vividly.
All in all, then, yeah – the wrap-up to OMAC number six is a bit anti-climactic, but this issue (again, as was so often the case in Greek mythology) is more about the journey than the destination. That journey gave us stylish sequences of super-hero-vs.-mutant combat, a booby-tapped super- train underneath Electric City exclusively for use by criminals that OMAC blows up, a handful of truly kick-ass splash pages, and a shady comic relief sidekick, so guess what? I’m not complaining.
On a purely technical level, Kirby’s “word boxes” are, perhaps, a bit too overly-descriptive at times here – when we see a subway door shut and get an accompanying “clang!” to boot, we probably don’t need to be told “the door shut,” for instance – but that’s arguing over small change. This is still a tour-de-force of sci-fi action storytelling any way you slice it. My only semi-major complaint is that the inks by D. Bruce Berry look sloppier as the story goes on, with his pretty fair imitation of Mike Royer’s brushstrokes at the beginning giving way to some seriously rushed-looking, less-detailed stuff by issue’s end. It’s still nowhere near as bad as his detractors would have you believe, but it’s obvious that he didn’t give each and every panel his best effort.
In our next installment, we turn our attention to issue seven, the beginning of the two-part story that would mark the series’ hastily-assembled conclusion, so be here in a handful of days as we meet a guy whose very name is sure to strike terror into the hearts of the timid – Dr. Skuba!