What the D'ast? Omega the Unknown
(Editor’s note: This is another in a series of irregularly-scheduled columns by Managing Editor Byron Brewer, mainly dealing with Marvel Cosmic and its many denizens. Mr. Brewer’s opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CosmicBookNews.com. He welcomes both raves and opposing views.)
By: Byron Brewer
From Galactus to Gog, from the Silver Surfer to Sersi, there are not many characters in the cosmic corner of the MarvelU.I am not fond of. Leave it to scribe Steve Gerber to create one: Omega the Unknown.
And “unknown” for a good reason! With all due respect to the late Mr. Gerber, the book of the same name stunk!
Unlike many other superhero/sci-fi titles, the main focus of Omega the Unknown was not on the super-powered cosmic alien (see where I am going?). Instead the story largely deals with an unusually mature 12-year-old boy named James-Michael Starling. Through the 10-issue run of this comic book, it is made clear that there is a connection between the laconic Omega and the strangely analytical James-Michael, with most issues adding to the mysterious nature of their relationship.
In the premiere issue, the character of Omega is shown as the last surviving member of an unnamed alien race. He escapes the mechanical beings who have devastated his planet in a ship headed to Earth. The story then cuts to James-Michael waking up in bed having dreamed the events that just occurred with Omega.
In his waking world, James-Michael and his parents are moving to New York Cityfrom the mountains so he can improve his socialization skills after years of home-schooling. En route to New Yorkthe Starlings' car is driven off the road and both of James-Michael's parents are killed, but not before the boy discovers that both of them were robots. James-Michael collapses into a coma and awakens a month later in a private hospital exhibiting an eerie lack of emotional response to his parents' deaths. The hospital is later attacked by one of the mechanical beings that destroyed Omega's home world, and Omega himself appears to defend James-Michael. The cosmic champ and the android fight, but the conflict ends when James-Michael himself destroys the alien mechanism with energy bursts from his hands (an effect used by Omega in James-Michael's dreams).
As we later learned, Omega the Unknown was a humanoid being of superhuman power bio-engineered by an extraterrestrial mechanoid race named the Protar, from the planet Protaris in the Regreb System in the Milky Way Galaxy. The Protar, foreseeing its own extinction, decided to create an ideal race of true humanoids as their legacy to the cosmos.
Their penultimate model, later called Omega, was placed on the planet Skrenesk to learn. He commandeered a Protar starship and fled to Earth after inadvertently destroying the world on which he was placed. Omega had superhuman strength, limited psychokinetic abilities and a psionic rapport with other Protar organic creations. The extraterrestrial Sreneskian endowed him with the ability to draw upon the psionic energy of the biosphere to project energy bolts from his hands and fly. Using biospheric energy beyond a certain level, however, could result in global destruction.
After the series’ beginning, the story follows James-Michael's life as he is fostered to two young women in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City. The series explores the problems he encounters in a strange new place, and his trials and friendships in a New York Citypublic school. Issues of racism and bullying are addressed, although the stories' focus is on how the reserved and detached James-Michael relates to the world around him.
Meanwhile, Omega the Unknown becomes a superhero figure in New York City, tending to fight only second-string super-villains (though he did once confront the Hulk) with a variety of outcomes. Otherwise, Omega tends to appear when James-Michael is in danger and then takes a more proactive role. As the series progresses Omega and James-Michael eventually meet and interact, although the nature of their relationship remains unclear.
Omega himself is killed in the 10th (and final) issue, leaving the mysteries of the story unresolved. In late 1979, writer Steven Grant brought the characters to a conclusion in two issues of The Defenders, at the end of which most of the original series' characters were killed. While Gerber seemed unhappy with Grant's conclusion, it nevertheless successfully tied up the loose ends of the comic series.
I never knew quite what to make of Omega, but this much I do know: the mag was never a fun read nor has the cosmos missed him since his departure.