Friday, February 19, 2010

Omega The Unknown (2007)

I haven't reviewed a comic book for this blog in a long time. There's a couple reasons for that.... Mostly, a lot of mainstream comic books suffer from a plague of sameness: the same situations, the same characters, the same "shocks" and "twists". Superhero comics are stagnant and in dire need of a huge paradigm shift. In the spirit of that, we have Jonathan Lethem's revamp of Steve Gerber's enigmatic Omega the Unknown.

The 2007 series of Omega the Unknown is different than the original in a couple ways. First of all, it's drawn in a very unique and idiosyncratic thanks to Farel Dalrymple, a mostly indie artist. Also, it's set during the present day. The story is of Alex, just a kid who is a little smarter than most. His parents perish in a car crash and Alex becomes the ward of the nurse who took care of him while he recuperated in the hospital. Alex is introduced to regular school in the heart of Hell's Kitchen in New York; it is a bildungsroman of growing up in modern era New York, just like Gerber's original series.

And just like the original, Alex is tied to a mysterious and silent superhero by the name of Omega. Robots are attacking regular people and infiltrating their homes and restaurants. Only Omega stands up to them. However, there's another element: the Mink, the very brand-orientated superhero who boasts a comic, action figures, and movies with his name.

What is the connection between Alex and Omega? Who is controlling these evil robots? Who is the Mink and how will he benefit from these two warring groups?

Lethem and Dalrymple set up mystery after mystery and build towards a confusing climax with this comic book. Lethem's talents at plotting are from his work with novels, not comics. It's very clear, considering he doesn't set up each issue as standalone stories. Rather, each issue is simply a chapter in a longer narrative. This isn't a good or bad thing; it's just different than sequential serial storytelling.

The story itself isn't terribly compelling to be frank. I never found Omega or Alex to be engaging enough characters for me to care, and the Mink was as subtle a satire as a screwdriver to the face.

I didn't hate this book, but I didn't like it either. It was a chore to sludge through the middle chapters in which Lethem sets up more mysteries. Does the conclusion of the story tie up all these loose ends? Sort of, I guess. There's no dialogue in the final issue for some bizarre reason.

I found this revamp of Omega the Unknown to be pretentious in that indie way, lackluster in the mainstream superhero way, and most egregious of all, boring in terms of story and character; there's no greater crime in fiction. I have only read one Lethem novel, Motherless Brooklyn, which I found entertaining if disposable, so I wasn't expecting Watchmen. I just found Omega the Unknown to be mediocre unfortunately.

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