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on 4 October 2008
Well, if you like Jonathan Lethem you like comics, and if you like Lethem AND comics there's no way you won't like this. There's everything in it, weird superheroes, common people who are weirder than the super-heroes, New York, fast food, yokings, black-white relationships, weird dialogues, funny scenes, and that Lethem touch that takes us back to the days of Girl in Landscape, Amnesia Moon and the rest of his earlier SF--but set in a NYC setting which is directly out of The Fortress of Solitude. I do recommend you to buy this one and read it, because it's absolutely good. Beware: it's definitely for the sophisticated reader, but much of what's in it may well appeal to the unsophisticated ones. Moreover, it's also powerfully Dickian, in that it's a hommage to Philip K. Dick. You can't miss this one.
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on 18 August 2014
Considering the direction Marvel is taking under the Disney ownership, there is a strong chance that you will never read anything like this from marvel comics again.
This highly imaginative tale is a revival of a seventies superhero series with a difference. The tale does not follow the superhero, but the boy who is mysteriously connected to him. The story starts with a dream with the protagonist, Alexander (a home-schooled savant lacking any interaction with the outside world), imagining a superhero fighting against robots; followed by an accident, were he discovers his parents were not who they seemed to be and starting a new life in new york were he encounters a lot of trouble (and a certain blue-attired vigilante...and a sleazy superhero to boot... ) And thats just the tip of the iceberg....
A lot of the story is unclear admittedly, and a lot is left to ponder and wonder, which for me just builds upon the story much better than being presented neatly with the beginning, middle and end fully wrapped up and explained. There are a lot of ideas contained within the story, and all are as equally perplexing as they are as effective to adding to the bizarre premise. It does lack a bit of warmth from the characters (which i get the feeling is deliberate) The protagonist himself is fairly detached and lukewarm , as well as being bizarrely verbose and openly challenging. His character (and Omega) change the most over the story unsurprisingly, I just wished the other characters were fleshed out a bit more instead of being mostly hostile. Dialogue can be a little stilted (in particular, from Alexander...) and some of the other characters do feel a lot more realistic (dialogue-wise...) Maybe the story is a little too full of ideas at the expense of characterisation. Its an unusual criticism but I did feel this toward the end.
The artwork is good for me. It has a fairly ugly, but whimsical look which is far removed from generic superhero sagas. There are no anatomically improbable characters (save for one...) and the colouring is drab to give a sort of antiquated look about it. Whether this is your thing is down to opinion. A few of my comc-reading friends didnt like this on account of the artwork (I liked it myself...)
I would recommend this to comic fans only if they are looking for a truly alternative take on the cowl and cape stories, and with a storyline to chew along with rather than swallow whole (also to fans of Marvel Strange Tales too...)
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 October 2008
Marvel, HC 2008
Jonathan Lethem & Farrel Dalrymple
A few years ago, Marvel reissued the 10-issue 1975-76 run of its comic book Omega the Unknown in a paperback collection. I can't help but feel that if I had read that, I would have a greater appreciation for novelist Jonathan Lethem's recent reimagining of it, the ten issues of which are collected in this handsomely produced hardcover. Lethem, and his somewhat more popular fellow writer, Michael Chabon, are well-known superhero comic aficionados, and it's no surprise that Lethem finally got involved in scripting one. However, the outcome is typically frustrating. I tend to absolutely love roughly 1/3 of his novels and stories, and find the other 2/3 to be either highly annoying or disappointing. This project displays flashes of Lethem's brilliance and wit, but ultimately remains too obscure and enigmatic to satisfy.

The story revolves around a teenage boy whose robot parents are killed in a car crash, leading to his adoption by a nurse living in New York's Hells Kitchen. Having been entirely homeschooled and more or less isolated from the world, the emotionless and unsocialized kid has to come to terms with his environment, as well as with his strange dreams about a mysterious alien superhero who battles robots. Meanwhile, the reader is introduced to the mute superhero and his apparently neverending battle with a race of mysterious robots. Of course, the paths of the boy and the superhero cross, and their fates intersect with that of a self-promoting slimy superhero called "The Mink." His agenda is entirely unclear, as is that of a mysterious sect which seems to be infecting the population with a nanotech virus which turns everyone into robots.

Suffice to say that this tangled web of plots and subplots gets only partially unraveled, as the story drowns in a mob of strange characters and events (such as a mysterious sentient statue which occasionally narrates, a mutant giant hand, the gnome beneath the labyrinth who can transport you anywhere in time and space, and on and on). As with most of Lethem's work, there are tons of interesting ideas (including some satire of marketing and consumerism), few of which are allowed the room to breathe and develop. Sometimes his cramming in of so many elements works, but more often it doesn't, and this is yet another case of where Lethem might have followed the "less is more" dictum to his advantage.

The artwork, by Xeric winner Farrel Dalrymple is mostly pretty engaging. It's always nice to see a "superhero" story told using a non-superhero style artwork. The one thing I found a little visually off was the lettering, which varied a great deal in size, which was distracting. On the whole, it may well be that fans of the original series will find this a lot more interesting than I did. It's also one of those books that might benefit from reading in an "altered" state of mind... Those with an interest in non-traditional superheroes might want to dip into the excellent collection Who Can Save Us Now?: Brand-New Superheroes and Their Amazing (Short) Stories?
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