Jack Kirby was one of the greatest gifts the comics industry ever had. From Darkseid to Etrigan, Big Barda to Klarion, he was never afraid to create, never afraid to do something totally new or unusual. His presence is still everywhere in comics, from the Mother Box in Justice League #1 to the Grant Morrison's entire oeuvre. But nowhere are Kirby's footprints stronger than in O.M.A.C.'s debut issue.
Opening O.M.A.C. is like stepping into some strange kind of time portal, one where the most psychedelic comics of the 1970's are filled with everyday modern conveniences and where that decade's art style can now be viewed in the rich, high-def colors that we've become accustomed to. Even the dialogue is a weird mix of dated and current, with corny lines that somehow work for me because of the book's strange, retro-futuristic style.
"Krackling" Keith Giffen's talent as an artist is obvious, but this issue was still an eye-opener for me. The way he channels Kirby is truly incredible, and he pulls off an extremely difficult pastiche flawlessly. There is so much going on in every page it's almost overwhelming, from action scenes to bizarre creatures to fantastical technology, and Giffen manages to keep up with all that's going on and then some. The blindingly bright colors were provided by Hi-Fi, and it really helps to complete the book's look.
Comics in the 70's were extremely dense, and this issue stays true to that as well. We go from zero into the first rumbles of our opening action scene in a single page, and the pace never really lets up from there. O.M.A.C. jumps from building to building, from fight to fight with hardly any time to breathe. It really drives home what a powerhouse O.M.A.C. is at this point, and while the character was conceived as a futuristic Captain America, he currently feels more like the Hulk. Right now, most of what's thrown at him doesn't seem to challenge him, and I'm guessing that means bigger fights and foes in the issues to come.
It may seem like mindless action on the surface, but I think there's more depth to this comic than people might realize. I especially liked how, as O.M.A.C., Kevin constantly repeats what's being said to him, as if he has no mind of his own. Seeing him break free of the control of Brother Eye will be an interesting process, and I'm excited to see O.M.A.C. become less and less robotic and more and more human. The tidbits of Kevin's past we got were intriguing, and I can't wait to find out how they tie into the greater story. I can't say I'm particularly invested in either Kevin's girlfriend or their lovable jerkbag co-worker, but they both have some potential and I wouldn't mind seeing more of them.
I also love how much imagination in poured into these creatures, even if they exist only for O.M.A.C. to take them down. The writing on this book is a collaborative effort between Giffen and DC co-publisher Dan Didio, and the two obviously compliment each other well. Wacky underground genetic experimentation laboratories aren't the easiest sell, but somehow everything works for me here, from start to the smile-inducing finish.
As much as I enjoyed this, I'm not sure how much appeal the book will have for people who aren't looking for a send-up to Kirby or comics of old. There's so much to appreciate here, but it's so different from the current comics status quo, and I'm worried that this isn't going to be accessible to the new readers that the relaunch is bringing in.
On the other hand, I let my 2 year old nephew take a look at my new stack of comics, and O.M.A.C. was the one he instantly gravitated towards. "He a bad guy," he said. I smiled and corrected him. "Oh," he replied, looking at the cover a little longer. "I like that guy".