Saturday, November 20, 2010

Surprisingly Cool, Not Promising Great Literature, The OMAC Project Is Still Exceptionally Engaging!

The Good: Very cool plot, Interesting character development, Consistently good artwork, Fills gap nicely
The Bad: A little light on character development
The Basics: Tense, tight and well-illustrated, The OMAC Project is a surprisingly awesome story of super hero slaughter!

As regular readers of my reviews will know, this is my Wonder Woman Year, where I am doing my best to make it through all the works about Wonder Woman that I can get my hands on. So far, it is promising to be an interesting project which is occasionally a bit confusing based on stories in the overall DC universe. So, when I deliberately took a sidetrack to pick up The OMAC Project, it might have seemed like I was inviting a potentially long distraction from my tight quest to get to know Wonder Woman. Unfortunately, that might just be the case.

I picked up The OMAC Project because when I read Wonder Woman: Love And Murder (click here for that review!) the story began after a pretty shocking turn in Wonder Woman's storyline which put her as a fugitive in the DC Universe. That event was part of the story The OMAC Project and part of the years long Infinite Crisis storyline which, frankly, I did not care anything about because it's comic books. Unfortunately for me, the quality of The OMAC Project might just be enough for me to look into all the damned "Prelude To Infinite Crisis" stories and read the Infinite Crisis book. The reason for that is simple: despite knowing the huge event with Wonder Woman in The OMAC Project, as the story raced to it and dealt with the ramifications of it, I found my heart racing with excitement and I realized that this is a real page-turner of a story and one that - even if I wasn't invested in all of the characters - was dragging me in enthusiastically. And yes, while Wonder Woman has a very minor role in parts of it, the defining moment of the book hinges entirely on Wonder Woman's sense of right and wrong. It's pretty incredible.

Because this is part of a larger story - though, apparently, quite near the beginning of that storyline - The OMAC Project rather helpfully includes a summary of the plots so far and I found this helpful. The important unfamiliar characters and the nature of the Checkmate organization are detailed so new readers will easily understand from the beginning all that is going on. It is quite effective.

Blue Beetle, a minor Justice League Of America hero, finds himself investigating his sudden bankruptcy following a crisis which has divided the Justice League. As he follows the trail of money and a signal from a future robot to a castle in Switzerland, he finds none of the other heroes around him believe in what is going on. When several of the a-list heroes are called off to fight on a war on a planet far away, Blue Beetle investigates the leads on his own and discovers a database with dossiers on every superhero, including their secret identities and their weaknesses. He is confronted by Max Lord, the Black King of Checkmate, and when he refuses to join Lord and Checkmate, Ted Kord (Blue Beetle) is killed.

This only validates the suspicions Kord had about the assassination attempts against him and soon Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are working to find exactly what happened to Kord. Unfortunately, Batman soon learns that his spy satellite Brother I has been hijacked by a nefarious force which is willing to use it to spy on and execute heroes anywhere in the world. Desperately searching for the spy satellite Brother I, Superman falls under Max Lord's telepathic influence and nearly kills Batman. This leaves Wonder Woman to stop Superman and it sets off a chain of events which put the millions of metahumans on Earth in peril by an army of soldiers impervious to their special abilities and in complete possession of the knowledge of how to thwart each super hero!

The OMAC Project introduces the One Man Army Corps, a creature which is essentially like the Agents in The Matrix. As part of his scheme, Max Lord has used Checkmate to infect over a million humans with a nanovirus which, when activated, turns ordinary humans into super-powered killing machines that he and Brother I can program. It is the OMACs which are turned against Earth's heroes and it makes for an exceptional second-half of the trade paperback anthology The OMAC Project.

In the first half, though, The OMAC Project is a real page turner and writers Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka and Judd Winick create a very tight story that actually made my pulse race. Keep in mind, I have no investment in any of the characters in the DC universe, save Wonder Woman (though, to be honest, I do like Batman some!). They kept the story engaging and editor Robert Greenberger knew what to cut from this anthology to keep it tight. This means that after part three of the main storyline, the story includes summaries of three comics from the Superman: Sacrifice story before the inclusion of the fourth part of the Sacrifice story. The reason for cutting the three comics out could not be more clear: they deal with alternate realities within Superman's manipulated mind which would only confuse the reader and dilute the main narrative of the Checkmate storyline. The fourth part, though, is essential and as the reader races through it, it is astonishing, even for those of us who know what is coming.

That said, The OMAC Project, which is likely to be found in the Young Adult section of a library which has graphic novels is anything but kid's literature. The story is dark, dangerous and appropriately graphic. Super heroes might have a no-kill rule, but villains do not and when heroes are killed in The OMAC Project, it is presented with a surprisingly realistic amount of gore. To wit, when Blue Beetle meets his demise, there's a spray of blood from his head that made me actually jump up as if I had just heard the shot (in case you're getting your knickers in a knot over the apparent spoiler, Blue Beetle's death is mentioned on the back of the book and the opening painting in the graphic novel has Batman holding his corpse in front of the Justice League members, so it's not a guarded secret at all). Similarly, Wonder Woman uses her tiara as a boomerang and when she slits the possessed Superman's throat, it is astonishingly graphic.

The OMAC Project is a story with a bodycount and the newest villain in the story - who has apparently been around the DC universe for some time - Maxwell Lord actually has a compelling character arc, though the story is much more plot intensive than character-driven. Lord sees himself as doing a necessary work to stop a threat which humanity unaided cannot hope to defeat. His proof, illustrating how easily he has come to control Superman, actually makes a twisted sort of sense.

But for those who do not like comic books, The OMAC Project is a great story to get a reader engaged in a visual story which flows incredibly well. The artwork is consistently good and each glossy page reveals a clear image that makes the movement portions of the tale very easy to understand. The reader is treated to a fast-paced story that is appropriately action-packed and dangerous and anyone who likes a character-filled thriller will find something to like about The OMAC Project, even if comics are not their thing.

Unfortunately for serious readers, this might lead to picking up a whole lot more in the way of graphic novels!

For other DC Universe graphic novels, please check out my reviews of:
Crisis On Infinite Earths
Identity Crisis
Blackest Night: Green Lantern Corps


For other graphic novel and book reviews, please be sure to check out my index page!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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