Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

A New 52 Review: O.M.A.C. #1

Posted by Don MacPherson on September 12th, 2011

O.M.A.C. #1
“Office Management Amid Chaos”
Writers: Keith Giffen & Dan DiDio
Pencils: Giffen
Inks: Scott Koblish
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover artists: Giffen & Koblish
Editor: Harvey Richards
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

This entry in the New 52 has been the object of some scorn and derision as a result of co-publisher Dan DiDio’s involvement as the series’ co-writer. I have to be honest: until I decided to do my New 52 Review Project, covering all 52 first issues, I had planned on passing on this title. After reading it, I’m pleased I didn’t. DiDio and Keith Giffen have crafted a love letter to the legendary Jack Kirby, who created the O.M.A.C. concept in the 1970s. This marks an interesting updating of the property, with a likeable, grounded protagonist and supporting cast. The creators also provide a strong, overt link to another Kirby creation, the Fourth World/New Gods, which have been out of commission since an ill-advised “Death of the New Gods” storyline from a few years ago. Fans of Giffen’s art style and of Kirby’s will love the visuals they’ll find here, and the brilliant, energetic colors bring a modern appeal to the old-school style in the line art. This was a fun read, nothing too heavy, but intriguing enough to get me to check out another issue. I think O.M.A.C. will surprise a few people.

Cadmus Industries is a bio-engineering firm that’s on the cutting edge of genetic research, and as such, its headquarters is a bustling workplace and practically a fortress, designed to keep its corporate secrets and ground-breaking developments from others. But today, it finds its walls breached by a hulking figure that declares itself to be “O.M.A.C.” Guided by an unseen voice, O.M.A.C. plumbs the depths of the facility, beyond areas where the regular workforce can access. In the lower levels, where strange figures practise dark science, he seeks to tap into the Cadmus mainframe at the behest of his insistent, cold master. As the destructive incursion continues, a Cadmus research scientist who’s being evacuated along with everyone else can’t seem to find her boyfriend and co-worker Kevin Kho anywhere in the building or on the grounds.

While Giffen’s own loose, bombastic style shines through in the art, his main goal is to capture a genuine Kirby-esque tone in the artwork. He succeeds… boy, does he succeed. I like the new design for the title character. It’s consistent with the original, but it’s tweaked to look more alien or even mechanical. The bizarre Mohawk-like hairstyle adds a dynamic flourish to the protagonist’s movements. Yes, there’s no practical purpose for it, but almost acts like his cape. It’s a dramatic flair that keeps the figure from coming off as too monstrous. The Kirby influence is apparent in almost every panel. Even the bystanders look like Kirby-rendered figures. It’s a wonderful tribute to old-school comics storytelling, and I’m pleased DC found a place for such an element in its New 52 lineup.

There’s a lot of mystery in the writing, and that’s one of the appeals of the story. The history between Cadmus and Brother Eye is something I want to learn, and how Kho came to be a pawn in the game between these two opponents is another question that begs answering, that draws the reader back for more. Despite the mystery, though, the story is accessible. DiDio and Giffen start the concept from scratch; this appears to be a thoroughly reboot, not only of O.M.A.C., but other Kirby concepts. Longtime comics readers, even Kirby fanatics, ought to find themselves drawn in here. These are older ideas being used in what seem to be new ways while still maintaining their original appeal.

This first issue is about setting the stage, about introducing the players. As I noted, it’s accessible, but DiDio and Giffen were wise to include plenty of action. We see O.M.A.C.’s power, and we see how Brother Eye directs his every action. Kevin and Jody are thoroughly believable, everyday figures, bringing the over-the-top, bizarre superhuman elements down to earth. I think what I find most interesting about the story is how Brother Eye comes off as being just as callous and, well, evil as its enemies. It’s using Kevin, and I’m curious to see if it will continue to be portrayed as such or if it’ll prove to be a protagonist.

I have to make a confession: when I first delved into comics as a young reader and into my teen years, I didn’t really care all that much for Kirby’s work, especially the characters and concepts he developed during his time at DC in the 1970s. Mr. Miracle, the Forever People, Etrigan the Demon and Kamandi — none of it appealed to me, and that included O.M.A.C. I wasn’t big on his artistic style either, but I really didn’t appreciate how Kirby helped to establish and develop the visual language of comics. Over time, I came to see and understand what Kirby brought to comics. It’s not just the iconic characters upon which Marvel is built. It’s the power of his imagination, let loose from the constraints of physics, logic or nature. It’s how he gave culture physical form. Maybe more than anything else, it was irreverence. Even when he drenched his characters in drama, there was something giddily wonderful about it all, and that shines through in this new take on O.M.A.C., certainly much more than the previous one introduced a few years ago in The O.M.A.C. Project. 7/10

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3 Responses to “A New 52 Review: O.M.A.C. #1”

  1. Spocksarek Says:

    I love this comic. It has a nice humorous quality that is not very prevalent in comics today. I was disappointed Giffen wasn’t doing Justice League International. Seeing his work on this makes me very happy. I am enjoying all of your reviews, thank you.

  2. Don MacPherson Says:

    Spocksarek wrote:
    I am enjoying all of your reviews, thank you.

    Thanks for the kind words! I’ve read a number of other comments online indicating I wasn’t the only one who was pleasantly surprised by O.M.A.C.

  3. Spocksarek Says:

    Good. I hope enough people buy it to make it last. This is one comic that I don’t want to see end to soon. Keep up the good work.