I’ve reached the last book of Jack Kirby’s collected works on “the shelf”, a collection of the short-lived series “OMAC: One Man Army Corps”. Containing just eight issues, OMAC is the story of an ordinary man, Buddy Blank, who is chosen for Project OMAC to become a “one man army” in a future world.
The story was imagined as a futuristic Captain America (no spoilers there. That piece of trivia is included in every article about OMAC online, plus the introduction to this trade itself), and the similarities are certainly noticeable. It is the differences, however, that make OMAC stand out, both for good and bad reasons.
OMAC’s story takes place in a haunting future in which technology has developed to astounding levels, often with poor results. OMAC is tasked with the evil that has sprung up because of this technology. The concepts Kirby came up with for this comic were entertaining to read, to say the very least. Whereas Captain America relied on historical facts (or a facsimile thereof) to power its comic, OMAC’s stories are pure speculation, springing from Kirby’s imagination.
What I found lacking in OMAC, however, was a touch of humanity. After his transformation, OMAC quickly loses all memory of who he used to be.
With the loss of all of his memories, OMAC becomes little more than a machine, serving mankind without remembering what it was like to be a part of it. His lack of humanity creates a noticeable void within the comic. This disconnect between character and reader is marked in each issue, and although it doesn’t ruin the stories, it does take away a certain element of the reading experience.
Further supporting this sense of separation is the seemingly omniscient character of Brother Eye, a large eye orbiting Earth that feeds OMAC power and information.
Brother Eye aids OMAC in whatever way is needed, always there to provide just helpful tip or last minute burst of power OMAC needs to defeat his enemies. The sense of dramatic tension in the comics was lessened when I kept expecting Brother Eye to swoop in and provide just the right backup to make OMAC triumphant.
I will admit, I found the futuristic, science-fiction stories themselves quite entertaining and inventive. The most intriguing one I read was in issues 5-6:
In this storyline, OMAC is seeking to stop criminals who have developed a way to transfer the brain of elder, high-paying clients into the bodies of young, virile victims. The entire plot felt like it was out of an old sci-fi movie, and was written and drawn with a keen attention to detail. This, along with the other issues in this series, held my interest enough that I wanted to keep reading more of OMAC’s adventures.
Unfortunately, OMAC never really got a fair chance, as the series was cancelled after only eight issues. If Kirby had an overarching story in mind for this series, he didn’t get to develop it before its cancellation. It’s a shame, because there is great potential in these few brief issues. Had the series continued, it could have been highly entertaining and original. The stories that do exist are good, but there is definitely untapped potential in this series. As with Kamandi, I can’t help but wonder what was going on inside of Kirby’s mind when he was writing and drawing these stories. I’d be willing to bet that the stories he envisioned were even more epic than what he was able to put on paper. Even though this series was short-lived, at least we were given a brief glimpse into the genius that was Jack Kirby’s mind.