Lethem, Jonathan. Omega: the Unknown.

NY: Marvel, 2008.

I’ve read all of Lethem’s novels and enjoyed most parts of all of them. The thing is, every one of them is radically different from all the others. He’s written a science fiction novel, a noir detective mystery, a psychological police procedural, a roman à clef — you name it, he’s done it. So this is (I think) his first graphic novel.

Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as successful as his text-only work. I gather there was an earlier series of “Omega” comics which I’ve never seen, and that this apparently is a reworking of that. But the fact that I’m not familiar with the original is no excuse for the fact that this book can’t stand on its own.

The protagonist is the teenage Alex Island, suddenly orphaned when his parents are killed in a car wreck that he survives — only they aren’t actually human. Alex ends up living with the New York City nurse who looked after him in the hospital, and though he was previously homeschooled (and turned out thoroughly geeky), he’s now having to adapt to a rough public school. He does make a couple of friends, though.

The other main characters are The Mink, an opportunistic superhero who’s heavily into marketing his image and cultivating the press, and another, more innocent (not to mention mute) costumed hero without a name but who has an Omega on the headband of his uniform. He works as fry cook (still in uniform) on a food truck and seems uncommonly depressive. And there’s a character who consists only of a floating head and a pair of hands, who refers regularly to his own “ancient omniscience.” Oh, and there are all these robots wandering around and making trouble for everyone. That will get you halfway into the story and odds are you still won’t be clear on exactly what’s happening or why. A lot of the oddities in the early chapters are meant to be clues, but I never figured out what they were intended to lead to. And the ending, . . . just ends.

I’ll definitely pick up Lethem’s next actual novel, but I won’t be rereading this thing.

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Published in: on 8 November 2013 at 8:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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