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for Friday, January 16, 2009

Jack Kirby's OMAC

Jack Kirby's OMAC: One Man Army Corps ($24.99) reprints all eight issues of the short-lived series from 1974 and 1975. The wild and wacky action started when corporate drone Buddy Blank was zapped by the absurdly powerful Brother Eye, a sentient super-computer orbiting Earth in the near-future "world that's coming." Blank is turned into a super-powered agent of the Global Peace Agency who brings the gangsters, dictators, and mad scientists of the future to justice, rarely breaking a sweat in the process.

OMAC didn't do much for me when I first read it, but, as Mark Evanier points out in his introduction, Kirby's books tend to improve with age. Older and wiser, I am more appreciative of the amazing ideas included here. I love the faceless agents of Global Peace who disguise their faces with a cosmetic spray so that none can discern their race or nationality, a symbol of how the Agency serves all mankind. I love their giving OMAC an elderly mother and father so he can experience familial love.

Kirby's ideas were clearly too big for the 18 pages per issue he had for his storytelling magic. "The world that's coming" is filled to the brim with bizarre crimes, inventions, and man-made monsters. Almost every issue seems rushed, especially the last issue since it was done before anyone knew that it was going to be the last one. What could have been one heck of a cliffhanger was wrapped up in a couple non-Kirby panels that ended the series on a truly depressing note.

The flaws of the reprinted material notwithstanding, Jack Kirby's OMAC is still a delightful collection of scary science fiction and weird adventure. It earns four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Superman: Escape From Bizarro World

Superman: Escape From Bizarro World [$24.99] reprints the recent three-part story by Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, and Eric Powell, then fills out the volume with reprints from 1960, 1984, and 1986.

The Johns/Donner/Powell serial is one of the best Bizarro stories ever. It has moments of jeopardy, moments of humor, and moments of teary-eyed humanity as Bizarro kidnaps Pa Kent to be his father on a Bizarro World turned against him. Of course, Superman follows to rescue his dad and finds himself on a battlefield that throws surprise after surprise at him. The result: an entertaining and exciting story with heart which, when it's as well-written and as well-drawn as this one, always works for me.

Otto Binder's "The Son of Bizarro" from 1960 is another of the best Bizarro stories of all time. Bizarro No. 1 and Bizarro Lois No. 1 have a son, but the kid is human, super-powered but human. Fearful for their child's safety, they rocket him off to Earth, hoping he will find parents a good home there. Like all Bizarros, the two of them don't think the same way we do, but their obvious love for their kid is touching. Supergirl, who was still operating secretly at this time, plays a major role. It takes some doing, including a invading army of Bizarros, before everything is set to rights, but, boy howdy, is this a terrific story with fine art by Wayne Boring (pencils) and Stan Kaye (inks).

"The Mark of Bizarro" is a Superman/Bizarro team-up from DC Comics Presents. The E. Nelson Bridwell script is clever and funny as the unlikely pair battle a Bizarro-Amazo. The art is by Curt Swan (pencils) and Dave Hunt (inks).

Closing out the book is John Byrne's "The Mirror, Crack'd" from his original Man of Steel mini-series. Unfortunately, this revamping of Bizarro's origin lacks the emotion of the origin from the 1960s. It's sterile and "by the numbers" storytelling as if Byrne were working from a list of things he wanted to establish rather than telling a story he wanted to tell.

Superman: Escape From Bizarro World is a little pricey for its page count, but those pages are mostly excellent. It earns a perfectly respectable three out of five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back on Monday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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