I can’t imagine anyone being satisfied by “Omega the Unknown” #10 as a single issue. Perhaps as an art object it has value, being another example of the strange beauty of Farel Dalrymple’s New York City. But unlike previous issues of “Omega the Unknown,” which relied upon a mixture of insanity and earnestness in the dialogue, this final issue is almost completely silent. I’ll provide the entirety of the dialogue here: “You seem much more yourself, dear.” “Yes. Quite.” That’s it. And those lines aren’t even spoken by the main characters.
But reviewing the final installment of a ten-issue series isn’t about just looking at this issue in isolation. It’s also about looking back on the series as a whole and seeing if this is a deserving conclusion. The entire series has been a treat to read — challenging, as it does, the typical Marvel tropes and conventions, and providing an unorthodox look at a superhero universe.
Throughout the series, Lethem, Rusnak, and Dalrymple have presented a stranger-in-a-strange-world tale; two, in fact. One deals with the young protagonist Alex and his attempts to learn the social customs of the American adolescent. The other deals with an enigmatic being who fights robots. Lethem and Rusnak have explained in recent issues, in their indirect and discursive way, the origin and purpose of these alien characters.
But that’s not what the story has really been about. The plot details — the revealed mysteries — have always been at the service of the tone. “Omega the Unknown” has been about a way of approaching superhero stories. It’s been about the absurd strangeness of it all, with an underlying melancholy. And issue #10’s near-silence emphasizes this attitude at the expense of completely resolved plot threads. If it’s an unsatisfying ending, perhaps that’s the point. What satisfaction can one hope for in a story as madly deranged and sad as this?
Thus, we get “Omega the Unknown” #10, which shows the calm after the storm. The explosive climax of issue #9 has not literally rendered everyone deaf, but that’s what it feels like. The silence permeates all of the small moments here, as characters say goodbye, move on with their lives, or fall in with an underground-dwelling homeless crowd recreating some bizarre superhero version of Hollywood Squares — I’m not sure what that last part’s about, exactly, but the image of the emaciated Omega being lifted into his square next to the guy in the Mink costume perfectly captures the tone Lethem, Rusnak, and Dalrymple have been striving for. It’s not an image you’d expect in the final issue of a Marvel comic. It’s not a grand, heroic triumph. It’s a weird, underground, unnoticed-by-the-rest-of-society triumph, not of order over chaos, but of inspiration. These characters will live on — their exploits will be celebrated and retold by society’s underdwellers.
As I said when I reviewed the last issue, Lethem, Rusnak, and Dalrymple’s “Omega the Unknown” is worth checking out. The collected edition is due in September, and though the ending might frustrate some readers with its lack of narrative closure, it will make a great single volume, full of the kinds of strangeness and unease that are the precise opposite of most traditional superhero comics today. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the “Omega the Unknown” collection popping up on my end of the year Top 10 list.