OMAC by John Byrne #1-3

I have to admit that Jack Kirby’s DC work is a bit of a blind spot for me. I’ve read a little bit here and there via one-off reprints or a story being collected in a trade paperback collection like The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told, but most of my encounters with Fourth World, Kamandi, or anything else he created while at the company have been through other writers. That’s the case with OMAC, a concept that I am more familiar with from its mid-2000s “Countdown to Infinite Crisis” version as well as a random issue of DC Comics Presents that I read via a reprint when DC was doing that lackluster Countdown to Final Crisis weekly. The less said about that series the better, although it was cool to get 80-page specials that were reprints of stories featuring key players in the series.

I’d know about John Byrne’s black and white series since it was originally published because I used to read DC’s coming attractions flyer “Direct Currents” as religiously as I read TV Guide every week, but coming during the end of 1991 when I was buying both the conclusion of Armageddon 2001 and every single War of the Gods crossover, I didn’t have $3.95 to drop. So I passed on it and pretty much forgot about it until a number of years ago when Michael Bailey mentioned it on his podcast (apologies for not knowing which one) and while he said he enjoyed it also mentioned that he only owned the first three issues. I remember sifting through the back issue bins and trade bins at my LCS to see if I could find that missing issue for him, but struck out.

And now I find myself in the same predicament because when I was at a quarter-bin sale a few months ago, I found these three issues but not the fourth in the bins. Although, to be fair, for all I know, it was in the bins and I missed it because I was in a rush.

Anyway, I ramble on like this because I really enjoyed this story and want the rest of it. Byrne’s work can be hit or miss sometimes, especially as you get into the Nineties, but this is a story that looks like he put a lot of care into and had fun with, especially since it is done completely in black and white (and having read his X-Men in the essential volumes, I can tell you that Byrne’s art looks great in black and white).

We open in a post-apocalyptic future where a mohawked super soldier type of hero named OMAC is fighting a one-man war against a technocratic corporate overlord. In that future, he reaches what could be the final battle against the final boss, only to discover that he is going to have to be flung back in time Terminator-style because that villain has also gone back and will use his knowledge of the future for his own gain–specifically, aiding Adolf Hitler. OMAC lands in the 1920s with amnesia and takes the name “Buddy Blank”, then winds up living a life as a dock worker for the better part of a decade, even going so far as to marry. But Buddy’s CEO is our story’s villain and once he realizes that Buddy is OMAC, he has him kidnapped and beaten. Thankfully for our hero, Brother Eye, the satellite that helps control and guide OMAC, arrives in the past and turns our amnesiac into the hero he was in the future. Then, he heads off on a mission to Nazi Germany and actually kills Adolf Hitler.

Where that takes us, I have no idea because I don’t have the series conclusion. But I’m going to keep an eye out for it in the back issue bins because this is an outstanding series. Byrne treats this as independent from any continuity (save for a mention of Superman and Batman in a narration box) and that lack of baggage makes the story really easy to follow. Plus, the art, as I mentioned already, is gorgeous. Several pages of action go by without a word and I found myself studying every panel. I don’t want to say that this was a passion project of his, but it certainly felt so.

Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?

Keep.

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