Thursday, November 1, 2018

Back Issue Review: Omega Men #3

The solicits for January 2019 were released earlier this month and the solicit for Supergirl #26 had a very interesting line in it.

Supergirl…super-captured! Still recovering from radiation poisoning, Kara finds herself in the clutches of the Citadel and its ruthless leader Harry Hokum, who is eager to experiment on one of the last Kryptonians in the known universe. 

Given the mention of Harry Hokum, I thought I would comb the back issue box and review The Omega Men #3 from 1983, an issue which is notable for being the first appearance of Hokum!

Okay, that isn't true, While this is the first appearance of Hokum, this issue is most famous for being the first appearance of the Lobo. While this is Lobo in look, this is not the Main Man most people are used to reading about. Here he is a calculating bounty hunter who sports a 'Goober Grape' one piece costume, a far cry from the cigar chomping, hog-riding, brutal killer of the current DCU.

Hokum is a pretty impressive villain here, a displaced Earth man who is somehow in the Vega system and a political manipulator from behind the scenes. He looks a bit like Vermin Vundabar of Fourth World fame. But despite his slight frame, he is able to stand up to violent leaders of The Citadel and become part of the inner circle of the fascist regime.

The book is written by Roger Silfer. But the main draw for me is the Keith Giffen art, still sporting his ultra-clean, organic look of his early Legion days. All I can say is 'wow'! I am always amazed at how Giffen's art looked back in the day. And given this was a direct market only book, he is able to get a little more r-rated here and there. I was lucky enough to get the issue signed by Giffen at Terrificon 2 summers ago. (The label is on a comic bag, not the actual book.)

Onto the issue!

The book opens with a wide shot and some exposition.

The Citadel regime has run roughshod over the Vega system, taking over all the planets except Euphorix. Euphorix is safe behind a planetary force field, completely impenetrable.

Enraged at the one hold-out, the Citadel lands ships from their fleet on the shield itself, planting bombs over the entire globe in a calculated pattern hoping to break the shield and open the planet to invasion.

Giffen does a solid job here with scope. Initially I didn't realize what was actually happening until I saw the tiny workers on the yellow globe. Suddenly the massive size of the ships and buildings comes into play.

At this point, my knowledge of the Citadel and their warriors came solely from The New Teen Titans. I knew them as brutish, crude beings who seemed to relish their sadistic lifestyle. I had seen them be terribly misogynistic to their enemies and I had seen them eat the flesh of their foes' fallen soldiers. Suffice it to say, they aren't nice people and often think with their bludgeoning fists first.

The Euphorix defenses prematurely detonate the Citadel bombs which leave the planet's shield unscathed while dispatching en masse the Citadel soldiers. The Citadel leader is furious.

Who shows up to give some advice? Harry Hokum.  He seems pretty confident in himself, approaching the murderous Citadel leader, jabbing a finger in the alien's chest, and saying he can get Euphorix for the Citadel if given the chance.

I told you how terrible the Citadel soldiers are. Immediately you know that Hokum has got intestinal fortitude and persuasion skills. Most people who dared to do something like this would be instantly killed.

Kalista, one of the leaders of the Omega Men, is Queen of Euphorix, On the Omega Men ship, she sees a news report that the Euphorix shield has been collapsed and the Citadel have taken over.

Fearing for her homeworld and upset that the one holdout of freedom is gone, Kalista demands that the team warp through space to bring them towards Euphorix.

As I said, this is classic Giffen in breakdown and style. But as this is direct market, Kalista is flitting around her bedroom nude while she watches this news report. We also get a scene of the ultimately traitorous Demonia in a boudoir scene. Serendipitous shadows keep these from veering into more salacious Chaykin-esque realms.

When the ship teleports near Euphorix, the Omega Men find themselves surprisingly in a meteor field. The ship is ripped in half by a rock occupying the same space the ship tries to manifest in.

Barely able to keep the life support systems on line, Kalista sends one of her corpsmen, Shlagen, out to examine the main hull breach.

This is were things get weird. The hole in the ship has been plugged. But plugged by something organic.

Heading back inside, Shlagen finds that the organic mass was actually a birth sac of some sort. It explodes into bat-like creatures who seek out and absorb energy sources, chewing on power cables and draining the ship's engine.

Also in the ship are two bounty hunters sent to the Omega Men to kidnap Kalista. Perhaps the more famous is the chaps-wearing, cowboy styled Bedlam!

Seriously, gaze upon the first in comic appearance of Lobo! Gaze at his purple hair and his 'peanut butter and jelly' aesthetic. One thing that is consistent is his power and lack of morals. With a flick of the finger, he explodes the head of a crewman.

The hunters split up and make their way through the ship, attacking everyone they see.

And they aren't fooling around. Bedlam runs into major Omega Men character Harpis and rips her wings off just for fun.

Killing off minor crew members isn't a big deal. Maiming a major team member? Bigger deal.

And then we see how this early Lobo is a bit more educated, intelligent, and strategic.

He sent the energy-suckers because he knew that they would feed on Kalista and incapacitate her. Lobo relying on his brains and researching his quarries. This isn't the 'I'll wade in and smash people' guy we know these days.

But that's it, Kalista is captures, strapped to Lobo's bike, and brought to the Citadel leaders.

With Kalista captured, Hokum (the supposed focus of this review) has ingratiated himself to the Citadel lord.

Suddenly Hokum is the main advisor to the Citadel, setting plans in motion.

And Hokum shows why he deserves such a role.

The news report of the shield being shattered was a fake. But he knew that would bring Kalista out into the open and vulnerable to attack.

The secret to Euphorix's shield is in Kalista's memory. So the Citadel will break her down and obtain that information to do it for real.

As fascinating as it is to hear Hokum's machinations and plans, I find it more interesting to learn that he is from Earth. How did he get out here? What is his origin? Why is he so skilled in these sort of wetworks plots?

One thing that is clear, he is a formidable opponent who always seems to be one step ahead of his prey.

The book ends on a rather grotesque image.

The easiest way to obtain the information isn't torture. No, the easiest way is to send a 'John Carpenter's The Thing' equivalent into her cell. This creature absorbs its prey and essentially becomes it, a perfect copy complete with all memories.

Will Kalista die? Do we learn more about Hokum? Does Euphorix remain safe? Everyone should start thumbing through the quarter bins for further Omega Men issues!

It sounds like the solicit implies that Hokum is still out there working for the Citadel. So I am interested to see what he has up his sleeves for Supergirl.


Anonymous said...

"But as this is direct market, Kalista is flitting around her bedroom nude while she watches this news report."


Hokum has stones, I'll give him that. Clearly the Citadel leader wouldn't mind eating him.

Interesting story and interesting to see how much has changed Lobo throughout the years. I dare to say early Lobo reminds me of his New 52 counterpart.

Hmm... A few months ago, I read a Bronze Age Superman story ("Two for Death of One": Action Comics 534-541) where Satanis and his "wife" split Superman into two beings, one of which is stuck into the present and runs into the Omega Men. I checked, and this issue happens later.

Great review, Anj. Now I'm wondering what will happen when Kara runs into that guy.

William Ashley Vaughan said...

Of course, it's obvious that the Humbeck character whom Lobo kills is an alien version of Hembeck.