Propaganda – to know the Unknown

Published On November 26, 2007 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

This is Propaganda, I’m Richard Bruton and this is what I’ve been reading lately:

Omega the Unknown
Written by Jonathan Lethem with Karl Rusnak
Art by Farel Dalrymple

Jonathan Lethem Farel Dalrymple Omega Unknown 1.jpg

Tellingly this is described on the very first page as “A version of an unfinished dream by Steve Gerber, Mary Skrenes and Jim Mooney”. This is a reference to the original Omega the Unknown series published and never really satisfactorily concluded back in 1977 (Marvel collected some of this in Omega: the Unknown Classic – Joe). From all of the initial press about this series and the unfinished dream tag it looks like the idea is to continue the weirdness. Fair enough.

But none of this really hits you when you first look at the comic. The very first impression is to question whether this is really a Marvel comic. Because it certainly doesn’t look like it. From the muted tan background of the cover to the deliberately loose logo, it all looks beautifully different.

Omega the Unknonw 1 Lethem Dalrymple.jpg

(opening page of Omega the Unknown #1 by Lethem and Dalrymple, (C) Marvel)

Jonathan Lethem is a noted author, most pertinently Gun With Occasional Music (mixing genres of detective fiction and the pulps) and Fortress Of Solitude (Magic rings and superheroes). Farel Dalrymple may be a familiar name to those of us who remember with fondness the great series Pop Gun War & Caper. With the combination of his delightfully subdued art and Paul Hornschemeier (The Three Paradoxes, Forlorn Funnies) doing wonderfully subdued autumnal colours it was always going to look different.

A quick sneak at the Wikipedia page for Omega The Unknown shows that this is no mere re-imagining of the original series. It’s more a complete retelling, at least in this first issue, practically scene by scene. But on top of this basic retelling the issue seems to deliberately set itself at some distance from the action, as if Lethem is merely reporting upon the original events. Perhaps subsequent issues will pull back further and begin to deviate from the original or perhaps Lethem is playing a metafictional game with the characters, hence the description on that first page as “a version of an unfinished dream…”.

Omega Unknown robot parents.jpg

(wiplash is a major problem in automotive accidents, even robot parents aren’t immune)

Basic story – from what I can gather from this issue (and that sneaky look at the Wikipedia entry) – Omega the Unknown is this mysterious figure who starts the comic living rough in some remote woods. But his exile is disturbed by some spectacularly retro robots. The other plot thread through the first issue deals with Alexander, an intelligent, incredibly mature beyond his 14 years young man whose life is about to change inexplicably as he comes closer and closer to Omega. There’s a car accident, the revelation (at least to us) that his parents are robots, then a coma from which he only awakes as Omega crashes his way into the hospital. For some reason the same robots that attacked Omega are after Alexander as well and then, on the very last page the link between the two becomes stronger still as we all realise that Alexander certainly isn’t your average 14 year old.

Omega Unknown 1 panels 2.jpg

(never trust a gun-totin’ robot masquerading as a medic in Omega the Unknown #1 by Lethem and Dalrymple, (C) Marvel)

It’s certainly an intriguing series opener and has done more than enough to make me look for subsequent issues, or, as is more likely these days, wait for the trade (the first two issues are out now, the next two can be pre-ordered via our comics site – Joe). Lethem succeeds in spinning the story out in such a way that even complete novices to the Omega story are drawn in, wondering what on earth is going on, but not throwing in so many unanswered questions as to put the casual reader off. So a top notch start to what looks like it could be the most interesting series Marvel have put out for many a year.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

2 Responses to Propaganda – to know the Unknown

  1. Pingback: Cheryl’s Mewsings » Blog Archive » Lethem Writes Comics

  2. Kelsey says:

    The complete book is stunning. Although I feel so confused for the Unknown ‘hero’.
    I have never read the original series, but at least I can tell that this newer retelling definitely does it justice.