Jun 29, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 855: Omega the Unknown #4, September 1976


There's a fairly large distinction between something intended for serial publication and something intended to be published as a standalone story in a single volume. It's unfortunate that in the 70s, Marvel, and most other publishers, were not quite as receptive to superhero graphic novels as they are now. Omega the Unknown is, almost undeniably, a single story, one that needs, or needed, to be told in its completion, rather than serially. While the story is, as the effusive praise of the letters page testifies, maintaining a lovely mystery around the two main characters, it's not really doing the sorts of things that serially-intended tales need to do. Each issue is building on the previous one more like chapters of a novel. The difference between a chapter ending and a serial publication ending is one that I talk about when I'm teaching comics, especially when I'm teaching collections of comics originally published on a monthly/bimonthly basis. Such stories will, generally, have some kind of cliffhanger at the end in order to bring the reader back to the series the following month. I am, of course, speaking in vast generalities here, but by and large if you're telling a story that you want to make sure your reader is willing to remember and come back to, you need to have a hook of some kind.

Omega, while it has subtle hooks, doesn't have the momentous, climactic moment at the end of each issue that entices the reader back. It's more an impending sense of revelation than the revelation itself.

Which, of course, is what will keep me coming back over the next few days to finish the series, but is also probably ultimately what contributed to the low sales of the series. As critics of Lost are wont to point out, you can only go so far without revealing some details of your primary mystery, and my sense is that not much of it is revealed in the 10 extant issues of Omega. But this likely has to do with the fact that the climax of the story is meant to be the revelation of the mystery, and once revealed, the story is done.

To be continued.

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