The OMAC Project
Reprints The OMAC Project #1-6, Special, Wonder Woman #219
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Jesus Saiz
Continuing immediately from the conclusion of Countdown to Infinite Crisis, we find Max Lord, now the head of Checkmate, cleaning up his murder of Blue Beetle. It’s revealed that Lord has control over Brother Eye, a spy satellite built in secret by Batman after he learned about the Justice League’s mindwiping of villains. At some point, off-panel, Lord has turned Brother Eye into a catalyst for OMACs, nanobots that have infected hundreds of thousands of humans and turned them into sleeper agents. The over-arching plan is to use Checkmate and Brother Eye to “take back” power from the growing number of metahumans on Earth. Booster Gold is concerned about his old teammate, Blue Beetle’s disappearance. He works alongside Batman, Fire, and other heroes to get to the bottom of what happened.
This mini-series contains what is arguably the tipping point moment that causes everything to spill over into Infinite Crisis. While Identity Crisis get most of the controversy due to the salacious nature of its reveal, meaning it has to do with sex, the action Wonder Woman performs could be argued as equal if not worse. Provoked into combat by Max Lord, Wonder Woman realizes she is in a situation where she is going to be forced to kill Superman. That is unless she allows Lord to live. She decides to twist Lord’s head around and kill him. Brother Eye, activating a protocol in this instance, broadcasts the murder across the world.
As someone who is a big fan of the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League, which brought Blue Beetle and Booster Gold to prominence, I have mixed feelings about The OMAC Project. By turning Max Lord into a straight-up villain, no mind control going on, it recontextualizes the entire six-year run of the late 80s Justice League. Geoff Johns was rebuilding the Justice Society at this time I think it stands as a better example of how to revitalize what might be seen as an outdated, cheesy superhero group. Johns infuses the JSA with modernity but without losing the core themes of these characters, the idea of legacy. Rucka has never really shown much love for the JLI teammates, and it shows here that he doesn’t know how to write them in a way that is true to the previous history between characters.
Rucka is very strong when it comes to writing Wonder Woman, whose title he was helming at the time, and I think her decision to pragmatically kill Max Lord makes sense. She takes on the role of the pragmatist, the third approach in contrast to Batman’s eternal brooding pessimist and Superman’s optimism. Wonder Woman doesn’t revel in her act, but she sees it as the only path to stopping the imminently worse pending doom. However, this doesn’t elevate the story to any degree; it still reads like a slightly better early 90s edgy Image Comics book. The Big Three get boiled down to their most uninteresting tropes and so reading through the mini-series becomes a slog. I don’t want to entirely blame Rucka here because I suspect DC editorial had demanded of plot points they wanted to be touched on and the writer had to go with the flow.
The two aspects that get much time spent on them and fall flat for me are Sasha Bordeaux and the OMACs. Bordeaux was a carryover from Rucka’s tenure on Detective Comics. I haven’t yet read those issues, but she doesn’t have any character details that make her stand out from a new character that could have been introduced. I also don’t enjoy enemy hordes, like zombies, and so the OMACs are devoid of personality and simply just killbots. The peril is global, but the villains themselves are just so painfully dull, and I think it loses some of the magic of their Jack Kirby’s namesake.
Next up: the big show, Infinite Crisis.