Comic Book Review: OMAC #1 And MEN OF WAR #1

Two more New 52 reviews - the return of Jack Kirby’s One Man Army Corps and Sgt. Rock’s grandson fight in the modern DCU in MEN OF WAR.

I am trying to review every single one of the DC New 52 and have realized that reading them isn’t the problem, the problem is my overly verbose reviewing style. That means I’m terribly behind on reviews, and so I am going to try to double some reviews up. With OMAC #1 and Men Of War #1 it makes a certain thematic sense because… well, it doesn’t, but OMAC stands for One Man Army Corps and Men Of War is about guys in the Army, so there you go.

OMAC #1 is awesome. It’s a really crazy, over the top, mostly fight-filled story with Keith Giffen seriously homaging the work of Jack Kirby, who created OMAC back in  the 70s. OMAC is a huge blue bruiser with a big, stupid mohawk, and in this comic he breaks into the Cadmus Project and bashes his way a mile underground to a secret lab run by science fiction monsters. He punches them a lot.

OMAC seems to be a depository for some of the Kirby weirdness in the New 52 (although not the New Gods. Justice League #1 hints that Darkseid is the big threat for the team, though, so I expect to see the New Gods introduced elsewhere), but you don’t have to know that to simply enjoy  the big, silly action in this comic. By the end of the first issue readers are introduced to a whole ton of weird looking creatures and characters, learn that OMAC is a regular guy who is hijacked by a force outside of his control, and met Brother Eye, a strange space-dwelling thing that seems to know just about everything in the world. It’s a potent mix of hyperactive Silver Age madness.

Men of War is very different. This comic examines what it might be like to be in the military in a place like the DC Universe, and it uses a character with a familiar name as the centerpiece. Corporal Joseph Rock has been doing multiple tours of duty in the Middle East, but always being just insubordinate enough to keep from being promoted to Sergeant - guess he’s got an aversion to becoming Sgt. Rock. He and his men get sent on a mission and superhumans end up involved, with great destructive results.

Writer Ivan Brandon keeps the superheroics at a remove. We never quite can make out who the flying man is, or who the other flying man who engages him in battle is, for that matter. All we see is the fallout of their titanic struggle - destroyed buildings, flames and explosions. The question that Men of War seems to be asking is what role does the average military man have in a world where one superhuman could potentially liberate an entire country overnight?

I’m happy that Men of War is tacking this direction; while I really enjoyed the early 2000s miniseries Human Defense Corps, which saw a military force engaging against monsters and demons, I think there’s more territory to be mined in following ordinary men on ordinary missions in an extraordinary world. It’s why I loved Gotham Central so much - the familiar tropes of police procedural were upended by being placed in a superhero context.

Men of War also has a back-up story, one featuring a group of Navy SEALs operating in some kind of a black ops mission. This is much more real world stuff (by a different creative team), but just as interesting. There’s a certain level of Hollywood-ization going on with the SEAL banter, and the climax is a riff on Full Metal Jacket, but military comics still fresh enough that I’ll give the semi-laziness of the story a pass. I don’t know why Men of War needs a back up story, but this one will last at least three issues.

I like Men of War conceptually, and we’ll see if the title holds up the promise. I imagine it won’t have much time to do so - books like this tend to be short lived, as the vast majority of comic fans seem to sadly only want the same old same old.