Friday, August 28, 2009

Jack Kirby’s OMAC: One Man Army Corps – A Review

Jack Kirby’s OMAC: One Man Army Corps

Publisher DC

Format Hard Cover Collection $25, 10 ¼” x 6 ¾”
with lighter paper that actually makes it a more accurate reproduction in some ways

Editor/Writer/Pencils Jack Kirby

Inks D. Bruce Berry & Mike Royer

Color Reconstruction Drew Moore

I just finished the eight issue collection of Jack’s OMAC book and have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. When Lee and Kirby split up I was never fond of what Kirby was doing and never really sat down to read it and appreciate it. What I saw back in 1974 was that Kirby’s work had become chunky and block like and the dialogue was stilted and unnatural. Now I was 18/19 years old at the time and more interested in who is that girl across the campus and when are we going out to get a beer, then I was focusing on what are all these interesting concepts in this book.

At a slightly older age and with a different perspective I sat down and read a very quick reading OMAC series and walked away wanting more. I know thanks to Mark Evanier’s introduction that Jack quit DC and issue #8 was given an abrupt ending in an effort to tie up the story line but it was very apparent that Jack had some great ideas for at least the next issue. The effort to try and end the story with one redrawn panel is in and of itself rather funny as the villain of the piece is destroyed because his equipment overloads.

Jack’s premise was this book was talking about “The World’s that is coming.” This was a look into a future that was some unknown amount of time down the road. It is actually a rather inventive series and realizing that Jack was producing 15 pages a week, you have to say it was genius. Included in this collection are a few pages that are just Jack’s pencils and the amount of detail and shading that he did was amazing. Remember Jack was not using all the cute toys that artist have to build building and add backgrounds into their drawings, this is all just pencils and Jack’s imagination.

It is very reminiscent of the early sixties work from Marvel comics in that it has so many ideas and concepts in it and the book flies by so fast, that someone could take the first issue and turn it into a six part story without breaking a sweat and it would still have five times the story in it that a Bendis six issue arc of Daredevil ever had in it. In issue number one we see that the future has created build-a-friend. This is where pseudo-people are made to order for people with money. The females are the most popular. Of course mixed in with all these really cool concepts is the oddball thing that they explode and kill their clients because they are murder weapons. Great concept, but poor use of that concept to a more modern viewpoint, but in Jack’s world it needed to be that so OMAC could fight against it.

OMAC himself was an artificial person for all intents and purposes. Buddy Blank was a “loser” in the corporate world who was selected by the Global Peace Agency to be OMAC. Brother Eye, a one of a kind satellite developed by a scientist, uses a beam that rebuilt Buddy into OMAC. Of course the scientist dies and OMAC is left to fight for Global Peace and you have the future Captain America story being retold in two short issues. Buddy is the frail Steve Rogers, the scientist is the scientist and Brother Eye is the super soldier serum.

Throughout the rest of the issues we have hokey names like Mr. Big, The Crime Cabal, Doctor Skuba and others, but again when you realize Jack was writing, editing and penciling 15 pages a week who had time to be that clever. In the span of these eight issues we have faceless agents of the Global Peace Agency (so that they could be from any nation), molecular manipulation, brain transplants, questions about what is OMAC’s identity (we never got into why Buddy Blank as opposed to someone else), movies that you can become the star of, test parents, advanced fighting systems, a water thief and even more.

For a future world with a hero that powerful we had no clue how this world got to be where it is. It never showed any positive side of being in the future as the only view we got of the real world was Buddy’s corporation and the people there were jerks and the jobs were mundane. Also this world has a lot of bad people, but seemed to be control by a single world government. So many concepts and so many ideas, that I’m surprised DC has not let a really good writer cut loose and explore all of these in depth with a new series based on the original OMAC. After reading this the idea of how DC brought back Brother Eye and the OMAC idea into the current DC was certainly interesting (if overused) and it had its moments, but the “World to come” is filled with great story ideas.

The corporate, political and social structure of that world to come would be a blast to expand upon and exploring who Buddy is in relationship to the construct that he becomes as OMAC has great potential. The story of Brother Eye itself would be a heck of a story. I keep thinking what is OMAC, is he just a construct and if so is he a different being then Buddy? Is OMAC simply a pawn of the Global Peace Agency or over time will he learn to question those who send him on missions?

The bottom line is that for $25 this is a nice package. You get all eight issues by Kirby, a great introduction by Mark Evanier, some great pencil pages of Kirby’s artwork and you get to see Kirby at his wildest and at times his best. Over the years I have realized that Kirby’s artwork was not as chunky as I thought and that often he suffered from heavy inkers. Since the inkers also worked under incredible deadline pressure and could in no way do his pencil work the justice it deserved they survived by almost just outlining Jack’s work with heavy lines and spotting blacks and loosing all the detail. Hell they would have had to hire a staff of inkers to keep up with the man. As for the writing, it is not always the best from a scripting standpoint, but the mountain of ideas inside these pages are incredible. I could write a two page proposal for at least a six issue mini-series from just the first issue and if I get to use issue #2 I could write a 12 part series and build a foundation for a long term ongoing book. There is some generic stuff in here and some of it is certainly dated, but when you look at the core of these books and realize how it was being produced the man truly deserves the title Jack “King” Kirby.

Overall Grade A – A wonderful trip down memory lane and a gold mine of ideas that could be capitalized on.

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