Omega: the Unknown #3

A comic review article by: Jason Sacks, Martijn Form
Jason Sacks:
Martijn Form:

Jason Sacks: Martijn, I know you haven’t read the original Omega series, so I’m curious what you think of this new series. I’m a huge fan of the ‘70s series, and I’m really fascinated by this new comic. It’s so extremely different from anything else that Marvel has released recently. Heck, this comic is just plain weird. Omega has a very indy vibe to it. This issue, for instance, has very little action to it, but a lot of subtle things happen. Alexander, our protagonist, is enrolled in a New York City public school. He was home schooled and loves learning, so of course he doesn’t fit in at the school at all. As a fan of the original series, I wonder if the storyline at the school will lead up to the shocking scene that happens in the original series, a scene that’s stuck in my mind since I first read the original comics. I’m curious what you make of the strangeness of the story and what you think of how Alexander seems so out of place in his environment.

Martijn Form: Yes Jason, I’m not as old (read: wise!) as you, so I never knew a thing about an original Omega series. It was a week or three back during my vacation in New York that someone recommended me the Omega comic because of my love for Indy comics. Well, I never thought Marvel had this kind of story in them, not even for their Icon imprint. This book is brilliant and weird as you already mentioned, Jason. More off beat than this isn’t possible. This isn’t a book I would have expected Marvel to green light, but they did so, and I’m still mystified by the decision. I can’t recall a Marvel book from the last ten years that had page after page of so much funny, vibrant and flat out brilliant dialogue. I already read the first two issues several times, because of the sublime writing. For us readers who are unfamiliar with the original series, can you describe it?

Jason: Yeah, you’re right, I’m an old guy. Thanks for reminding me!

Marvel put out a trade of the original series last year. It has all ten of the original issues, with a two-issue “conclusion” that most everyone agrees is pretty rotten. It’s nice having the original run all available on slick paper in a nice edition, but to me there’s nothing like reading the original comics in their original format, because it’s almost shocking how much the original series followed its own path. Omega, as scripted by Steve Gerber and Mary Skrenes, was kind of a satire of super-heroes. In his blue and red costume and his origin of being rocketed from a destroyed planet, Omega looked like Superman. But he most definitely was not. In that era, there never had been a character who was so apathetic about evil, who cared so little about fighting crime. Meanwhile, James-Michael, the counterpart of Alexander in the new series, was the real focus of the stories. He was another completely unique character – overly smart and always on the edge of being smothered by his life in New York. Add in the really gritty artwork by Jim Mooney, and you have a very unique series.

Martijn: Are you sure you aren’t working for Marvel and your name isn’t Tom Brevoort [Omega the Unknown’s Editor], Jason? Because after reading your description, I now have to look for the original comics.

Jason: They’re totally worth looking for, and you can probably get a complete set on eBay pretty cheap.

Maybe the strangest thing about this comic to me is that it really feels like a deconstruction of super-heroes. It’s just plain bizarre to see the super-hero working in a hot dog truck. What kind of hero does that? And what is he doing in the truck at night, anyway? This isn’t exactly the classic action hero. Heck, he doesn’t even have a name yet!

Martijn: mmmmmm hot dog…

Jason: Ummm, think about your cholesterol levels there, buddy! Then there’s the Mink, who’s self-obsessed and has a kind of low-rent feel to him. The Mink kind of seems like a commentary on the absurdity of costumed heroes. He seems kind of cheesy, with his fleet of Mink trucks and his association with a gangster, and besides that, what kind of man has a labyrinth built in his basement?

What do you think of the way Lethem presents heroes in this comic?

Martijn: Yes, this isn’t classic hero behavior, and to think that Lethem is a big fan of super-hero comics. But I love to see the status quo of super heroes being shaken up a bit.

The television show Heroes presents super heroes who don’t feel the need for any costume or secret identity. Will this be the future for super heroes? Spider-Man already showed his face a thousand times to anyone vaguely interested in peeking.

But a super hero with no name who hasn’t spoken one word in three issues and works in a Hot dog truck? Hilarious, funny and totally different. Jonathan Lethem needs to write an arc or two on The Hulk. I need a good break after “World War Hulk.”

Jason: I love the idea of Lethem writing the Hulk! Would ol’ greenskin work at an espresso stand? No, seriously, it’s a great idea because there’s kind of a feeling in this comic of the crazy, mysterious world of costumed heroes, you know? What kinds of worlds do they live in when they’re not trying to save the world?

I really liked Farel Dalrymple’s art in this issue. What did you think of it? I loved how he worked so hard to create mood, and the way he used static shots to emphasize his storytelling. Almost every panel has a nicely detailed background, too. Dalrymple’s style is definitely unconventional, but to me it’s smart and fits the story well, and does a great job of creating mood.

Martijn: There are two artists at Marvel right now that I must collect. One is Scottie Young, especially his new style for New X-Men, and the other is Farel Dalrymple.

Dalrymple has the right pencils to create an Indy comic mood. Did you notice that he is doing the lettering also? And the lettering has a unique style compared to other Marvel Comics.

Jason: It’s awesome. It really adds a lot to the comic. Wow, Martijn, you must have liked this comic if you even loved the lettering!

Martijn: Haha, yes I do love Omega. Dalrymple is perfect for this book. Look at page 3 where Alex and Amandla are walking and talking. Every panel contains the same composition of the two, but the diversity in background creates some excellent sequential art. Actually, there isn’t one page in the whole book that doesn’t have an inventive panel or a background that tells a story on its own. I really love the “thinking head statue.” What do you think that means in the story, Jason?

Jason: I’ll be damned if I know, Martijn! Of all the weird little touches in this comic, that’s the one that has me the most baffled. I almost don’t want to predict what it is, because I like so much how this comic is so full of surprises. What do you think?

Martijn: Ehhhm… some kind of eye of the beholder?

Jason: Overall, I thought this new series is a great revival of the original. It’s very different from the creation of Steve Gerber and Mary Skrenes, but at the same time it preserves the spirit of the original. What do you make of the book, as someone who’s never read the original comics?

Martijn: I recommend this book to everybody who likes a good story with an Indy and off beat feel.

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