Wednesday, October 24, 2007

OMEGA the Unknown

Okay. So, Jonathan Lethem wrote in his book of essays, The Disappointment Artist, about Omega the Unknown, "It's a comic from the 70's from master storyteller Steve Gerber, along with Mary Skrenes and illustrator Jim Mooney."

The original book has a great story, with this very gothic 70's superhero vibe. Somewhere between Power Man/Iron Fist and Doctor Strange from that same period. Within 10 issues a mystery involving a boy, a superhero from another planet, robots, and the greek letter Omega are shown but never really explained.

According to Wikipedia, Gerber objected initially to the retelling of Omega the Unknown, but has since allowed the remake. Gerber's thoughts were "Why not just name the book something else? Why take my ideas?"

This retelling is strong, but has a different tone. The mystery of Omega the Unknown is replaced by irony and personal history of Lethem, whose writing voice in this book mirrors his work in his essays and novels. He drafts great dialogue, and this is a trend in comics I would like to see continue. Comic books should be well written -- not just be wooden good vs. evil smackdowns all the time.

Farel Dalrymple's drawings are very different from Jim Mooney's, who worked closely with both John Romita and John Buscema on the Amazing Spider-Man and the Mighty Thor respectively, and as a result drew Omega very much in that same expressive style. Dalrymple art is more about what is happening inside; the facial expressions giving life to the narrative. The human form is anatomically well-drafted, but still looks like a comic book -- somewhere between Ted McKeever and Dan Clowes. The colors Paul Hornschemeier renders are unique and opaque; I like his robot laser blasts.

But is this a remake? No. It feels like a new book, and the parts which tie in with the original fable even seem forced and ironic at times, probably on purpose. Even if they recreate the comic panel by panel, it will still feel like a new story. This reinforces Steve Gerber's initial argument about the remake: that it did not have to be an Omega remake at all. Still, this is the first issue of the first comic book ever by Jonathan Lethem, the well-known writer and novelist best known for Fortress of Solitude, and it's really damn good anyway.

By Guest Contributor: Mark Denardo



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