1978 Redux, In A Good Way: OMAC #2 Review

Cover to DC Comics OMAC #2, by Dan DiDio and Keith Giffen“Lemme see,” I said to my local comic store owner, who knows me by name and asks me why his store always smells like a distillery explosion after I leave, “The New 52 week one books that we want to keep getting… definitely Detective Comics. Also Animal Man, Swamp Thing, Justice League International… we’ll call Batgirl ‘on the bubble,’ and, um…”

“Don’t forget OMAC,” Amanda chimed in.

“OMAC? Are you fucking kidding me? You read The Outsiders at the end of its run. Dan DiDio might be a good publisher or editor in chief, but whoever he answers to shouldn’t allow him to write anything longer than his own name.”

“Yeah, but I like Keith Giffen. And I really liked the end of the first issue. So I want to give it another shot.”

Sheesh. Wimmens, man. What’re you gonna do? So I made the commitment to spend another $2.99 a month because hey: I love her, and it isn’t gonna suck itself, and sandwich: I don’t have one, amirite?

Ow. Owwwww. Note to self: don’t write shit like that when you don’t mean it and when your girlfriend is your editor. But I digress.

So this past Wednesday OMAC #2 was, in fact, in my pile of subscription pulls, whether I really wanted it or not. So imagine my surprise when it turned out to be one of the better books of the week.

OMAC is the story of a dude named Kevin Kho who has been co-opted by artificial intelligence Brother Eye to become, on command, OMAC: the One Machine Attack Construct. Why? Because One-Man Army Corps sounded really fucking stupid in the 70s and it sounds even fucking dumber now.

Oh, you meant: why has Brother Eye made Kevin OMAC? Who knows? Frankly, who gives a shit? There’s some background that Checkmate and Cadmus Labs are somehow involved, with a surprise mastermind reveal at the end which gave me a little extra push toward signing onto the book full time myself, but none of those are the reasons you should think about reading this book.

The main reason is that, if you’re around my advanced age, you’ll read this book and realize that Giffen and DiDio have recreated the kind of comics that you read when you were a kid, in those heady days leading up to 1978’s DC Implosion, where the original O.M.A.C. met his first publishing demise.

From the simple page layouts – you’ve generally got straight-ahead four and six-panel pages here and the odd splash page – to the writing that spells out what’s going on and what you need to know clearly and unambiguously, to the quippy editors’ notes explaining story points that happened in the first issue, this is a book that’s only pulp paper, dotted four-color separation, and $2.64 away from being releasable in 1978.

First of all, this is, for all intents and purposes, a one-and-done. Sure, there’s continuity from the first issue, but everything you need to know that happened there is explained in dialogue, narration or those previously-mentioned editors’ notes. In addition, there is the introduction of a villain, a battle with that villain that has an actual conclusion, all in just a few pages. It’s old school comics writing and the only book in the New 52 that comes to mind that feels complete.

If you’re not familiar, the original O.M.A.C. was created and drawn by Jack Kirby, who Keith Giffen is channeling admirably in this book. It’s all here, from the big sci-fi machinery, giant monsters and thick-lined yet clear action panels. I mean, if you can look at this splash page…

…and not think The King, well, comics: you haven’t read enough. And sandwich: I don’t haOWWWW. Anyway.

This isn’t a perfect book, by any stretch of the imagination. The dialogue and general writing are occasionally clunky; dialogue like: “Listen close, cause I’m only SAYING THIS ONCE! I’ll NEVER be controlled again, NEVER!” might tweak the nostalgia of a 40-year-old reader, but it ain’t never gonna do anything for a 20-year-old but make him roll his eyes and drop the book.

But if you’re anything like me and you have any kind of nostalgia for the kind of books your mom would let you pull off a spin rack as a reward for not trying to find out if you could squeeze the cat hard enough to make him shit, you’ll get a kick out of this book. Is that enough to make it a regular purchase? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s enough to keep it on my pull list for now.

Of course, I would probably enjoy the book more if I had a nice, fat turkey sandwiJESUS GOD MY EYES WHY