Posted by: Brian Hibbs on October 6, 2007
OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #1 is arguably Marvel’s most noteworthy release this week… because it doesn’t look like something Marvel would publish.
Consider the history: novelist Jonathan Lethem, freshly recruited by Marvel, has chosen to remake a semi-obscure Steve Gerber miniseries on the basis that the original story never got a proper ending, having been cancelled due to low sales. There seems to be a genuine sense of nostalgia attached to the product, as opposed to the usual exploitative self-cannibalism – “let’s dig up some graves and see if the bones sell”. While I never read the original Gerber mini, it doesn’t feel like Lethem is targeting specific aspects of the premise and revamping them so the modern reader finds them “accessible”. More to the point, it’s a revival of a property that has zero visible ties to the Marvel Universe, and from a marketing standpoint, it probably won’t go far on the charts. And yet here it is.
Consider Lethem’s story: a bizarre, slightly off-kilter narrative that may or may not be telling two tales at once. It’s probably no coincidence that the first page describes this miniseries as “a version of an unfinished dream”, because it really does read like a dream sequence, jumping from place to place while vague events unfold everywhere. This first issue was thoroughly weird, shades of David Lynch but without that sinking feeling you get when you realize there aren’t any answers coming. Ever. EVER.
Consider Farel Dalrymple’s artwork: simplistic, slightly reminiscient of pulp, with faded colors and big, chaotic lettering. It’s a far cry from the usual vibrancy and clean order found in the Marvel Universe.
Everything about OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #1 screams “UNCONVENTIONAL!!!”, and that’s something Marvel hasn’t actively pursued in a good long while… not since the days of X-STATIX, I think. And not only is it different, it doesn’t flop around awkwardly like other series that would like to be different and go about it in all the wrong ways. The loopy, sometimes awkward dialogue and the abrupt scene shifts and the total lack of clarity all manifest here as conscious choices, rather than the result of flawed writing. On these grounds, I’m going with GOOD for now. We’ll see where it goes next.