Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Great Batman: Brave and the Bold Rewatch: When OMAC Attacks!

Season One, Episode Twenty-Three: When OMAC Attacks!
Written by Stan Berkowitz
Directed by Brandon Vietti

Plot Synopsis

A mighty battles between two fleets wages in space. The Batplane flies towards them, and Batman tells his passengers, the brother heroes Hawk and Dove to deal with the ground forces while he stops the warships so he can get both sides to the bargaining table. Batman drops them off, telling them not to fight amongst themselves, and the two jump into battle, bickering all the while. Batman stops the fleet, and contacts Hawk and Dove, who are still arguing peace vs. aggression. Later, even as the treaty is signed between the Controllers and the Warlords of Okaara, the two continue to bicker.

Episode: At the headquarters of the Global Peace Agency, the faceless members of the mysterious law enforcement organization berate Batman for not completing the mission they assigned him, finding and stopping the villainous General Kafka, quickly enough for their liking. The GPA agents explain that Kafka must be stopped before he can create a biological tranformative. The GPA tells Batman they will be assigning him a partner. A janitor, Buddy Blank, comes in, and spills water on Batman while gushing over what a big fan he is of the Dark Knight. When Batman asks about the partner, they tell him Buddy is his partner, as they contact the artificially intelligent satellite Brother Eye, which transforms Buddy into the GPA's top agent, OMAC, the One Man Army Corps, a powerful entity who has no knowledge of his life as a janitor.

Later, Batman and OMAC surveil a mountain fortress. Batman says he has something that will let them slip in, but OMAC instead has Brother Eye, who can upgrade OMAC's powers on demand, enhance his strength and he leaps to the compound, busting down the wall before smashing the tanks and beating all the soldiers unconscious. Batman offers OMAC the advice that excessive force isn't the answer to everything, which OMAC promptly ignores.

In Kafka's lab, Batman and OMAC break in to find Kafka waiting. OMAC leaps for Kafka, who blasts him, and the two run off deeper into the lab. Batman is about to follow when Equinox appears, telling Batman he is not supposed to be here, that Equinox has set this whole thing in motion as part of his plan to maintain balance. batman shoots his grapnel into the air, saying he will try to tip the scales to the side of the good guys, but the grapnel cable snaps and Equinox disappears into the shadows.

OMAC and Kafka continue to fight, and when OMAC has Kafka at his mercy, he calls on Brother Eye to give him energy powers to blast Kafka. Batman interferes to stop OMAC from killing Kafka, and the stray blast hits the vat of Kafka's experimental chemical which floods the room. Batman is able to get himself and OMAC out, but the chemical washes over Kafka. Batman and OMAC stare each other down, Batman chiding OMAC for being merciless. But from the wreckage bursts Kafka, reborn from the chemicals as the metal monster, Shrapnel.

Shrapnel fires metal projectiles at Batman and OMAC, and one hits the symbol on OMAC's chest. When Batman is able to get to OMAC, he finds that he has been transformed back into Buddy. Batman escapes with Buddy, as Shrapnel swears revenge. Back at the GPA, the agents again blame Batman for failing, but Batman warns them about Equinox, telling them he feels Equinox is probably responsible for OMAC reverting to Buddy. Batman feels the GPA is abusing Buddy, not letting him know what they're doing to him and that an OMAC with some of Buddy's heart would be a better solider.

Buddy is in his room, wishing he could get another shot at Shrapnel. Batman appears in the room's shadows startling Buddy, coming to check on him. Batman reassures Buddy that underneath it, there's a string man waiting to break out, but before they can talk more, the complex shakes. Batman assumes it's Shrapnel, and looks to find Buddy once more transformed into OMAC. In the streets outside, Shrapnel is attacking. Batman and OMAC again confront him, and OMAC again doesn't listen to Batman's ideas about being more subtle.

Before Batman can join the fight, Equinox reappears, telling Batman he warned him about interference. Equinox tells Batman he feels they are similar both trying to balance the scale, be it of justice, like Batman, or like himself in a grander sense. Batman throws a Batarang at Equinox, which he transforms into a living bat with a thought.

OMAC and Shrapnel continue to fight, only now Shrapnel has the upper hand. He tells OMAC that the GPA came to his country to stop a war, and destroyed a village in the process. It was his village, and Shrapnel survived to seek revenge on the GPA. Batman makes another attempt to stop Equinox, but a tree branch falls on him, stopping him. Equinox tells Batman that his plan is to balance the scales here, to have the city the GPA is headquartered in destroyed to balance the loss of Shrapnel's home village. Batman looks at Equinox in dawning horror as he swings off, finding that Shrapnel's path is leading towards a nuclear plant, and OMAC is not fairing well on the fight.

In the plant, OMACis continuing to take punishment, and doesn't stop all of Shrapnel's projectiles, which damage the plant's control panel, starting a meltdown. Batman rushes into the plant to try to stop the meltdown while OMAC and Shrapnel still battle. Finally, OMAC decides to listen to Batman's words, and he has Brother Eye give him full strength to shields, which stops him from being hurt when Shrapnel punches him through the building. He now knows fighting Shrapnel only makes him stronger, so he's hoping this will stop him.

Batman goes to enter the reactor to stop the meltdown to have Equinox magically appear again to stop him. The two discuss the philosophy of balance as they fight. OMAC continues, to take blow after blow from Shrapnel, and Shrapnel begins to lose his steam; OMAC has realized that Shrapnel absorbs and redirects energy, and by not fighting him, Shrapnel has nothing to fight with. OMAC uses a girder to hold Shrapnel in place, just as his own energy reserves reach zero, transforming him back to Buddy. Buddy sees the chaos at the plant and charges in.

Batman is able to get a grenade past Equinox, blowing up the security panel and gaining access to the nuclear core. Equinox warns him that the radiation will destroy him, but Batman pushes on anyway, and when Equinox tries to stop him, Buddy appears, knocking Equinox aside and letting Batman charge into the core. Batman reaches the control rods and is able to to push them into the core, stopping the meltdown, and is on the verge of death when Equinox appears and saves Batman's life, magically healing him, saying it is not his time before disappearing.

Buddy, in a radiation suit, pulls Batman from he core, and is overjoyed that he has fought a supervillain, confident he Equinox will not return. But Batman looks to the moon, sure they have not seen the end of the villain, as the moon changes to the yin yang symbol of Equinox.

Who's Who

OMAC (Voiced by Jeff Bennet)
First Comic Book Appearance:  OMAC #1 (October, 1974)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Twenty-Three- When OMAC Attacks!

In the not too distant future, Buddy Blank was a nobody who was taken into the employ of the Global Peace Agency and whose identity was subsumed by the GPA's perfect soldier: OMAC. OMAC was a perfect weapon who would fight for peace, and in a world where large armies were considered too dangerous and too public, it was up to OMAC to keep the peace. OMAC's series would only last eight issues, but he would pop up in other short series and backups by the likes of Jim Starlin and John Byrne. Years later, in a non-Kirby written back-up story, Buddy Blank would take his young grandson into the Command D bunker to protect him from a coming cataclysm, and that young boy would take his name from the location when he emerged, becoming Kamandi. Buddy was rarely used within the DC Universe, but was one of the aspects of Kirby creations that appeared in Countdown to Final Crisis. OMAC's powers come from the satellite Brother Eye, and include super strength and speed, density control, and energy projection.

Brother Eye (Voiced by Dee Bradley Baker)
First Comic Book Appearance:  OMAC #1 (October, 1974)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Twenty-Three- When OMAC Attacks!

When introduced in OMAC, Brother Eye was the sentient satellite that provided OMAC with his powers. But Brother Eye has had a larger and more sinister role in the DC Universe at large. Created by Batman to spy on metahumans, the Brother MK1 satellite developed artificial intelligence and was corrupted my Maxwell Lord, the Black King of Checkmate, in his plan to destroy all superhumans. Even after Lord's death, the satellite, dubbing itself Brother Eye, would continue his plan until it was eventually destroyed by a group of superheroes during Infinite Crisis. In the post-Flashpoint universe, Brother Eye was destined to conquer the Earth and transform it's populace into mindless cybernetic soldiers, but this timeline was prevented by a time travelling Terry McGinnis. The current fate of Brother Eye remains unknown. An artificial intelligence of vast intellect and tremendous computing power that can easily overtake most other computer systems. It also controls a vast army of OMACs, cybernetic soldiers that do its bidding.

Kafka (Voiced by Jonny Rees)
First Comic Book Appearance:  OMAC #3 (February, 1975)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Twenty-Three- When OMAC Attacks!

Kafka was an Eastern European dictator and recurring nemesis of OMAC

Shrapnel (Voiced by Jonny Rees)
First Comic Book Appearance:  Doom Patrol Vol.2 #7 (April, 1988)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Twenty-Three- When OMAC Attacks!

Much of Shrapnel''s background is unknown. It is know he was a man named Mark Scheffer, who was somehow transformed into the walking pile of metal shards, who went insane and decided to kill anyone who saw him. He would go on to fight the Doom Patrol, and would go on to be a member of the Secret Society and the Suicide Squad. Shrapnel has super strength, but his main power is the fact that he is made of small metal shards that he can fire to devastating effect, and that regenerate over time.

Equinox (voiced by Oded Fehr)
First comic book appearance: Justice League of America #111 (June 1974)
First Brave and the Bold appearance: Season 1, Episode 14- Mystery in Space!

Hawk (Voiced by Jonny Rees) & Dove (Voiced by Dee Bradley Baker)
First Comic Book Appearance:  Showcase #75 (June, 1968)
First Brave and the Bold Appearance: Season One, Episode Twenty-Three- When OMAC Attacks!

Hank and Don Hall were brothers who could not have been more different. Created by legendary creator Steve Ditko in the late '60s, the two were typical of different philosophies of the time: Hank was belligerent and quick to anger, while Don was passive and always seeking to talk out problems. They were granted powers by a mysterious source (later determined to be members of the cosmic entities known as the Lords of Order and Chaos). They would fight crime together, and usually combat each other verbally, due to their very different points of view on how best to deal with criminals. The two would remain partners until Don's death during Crisis on Infinite Earths, shortly after which a new Dove was called, a young woman named Dawn Granger, who is still Dove today. When danger is present, Hank and Don could call out their respective superhero names to magically change into their costumes. Hawk's powers include heightened strength and stamina; Dove's powers include a heightened senses and agility.

Continuity, Comics Connections, and Notes

This episode ends the unconnected trilogy of Kirby greatness. Jack Kirby the King of Comics, created OMAC towards the end of his tenure with DC Comics, the same period that gave us Kamandi, who appeared last episode, and the New Gods, who include Mr. Miracle, who was featured in last episode's teaser, and the Female Furies and Steppenwolf, who appeared two episodes ago.

There have been numerous versions of the Hawk & Dove team throughout DC Comics history. The best known are the Hank and Don Hall versions, as they are the ones that have appeared not just in Brave and the Bold but Justice League Unlimited, and the Hank Hall and Dawn Granger versions, which has been the longest lasting version, with Hank teamed up with a female Dove after the death of his brother. There was a completely unrelated version that appeared very briefly. I'm going to avoid giving the background on what happened in the '90s and early 2000s to Hawk and Dove, because they both died and Hawk became a villain for a while, but Dawn briefly teamed with her theretofore unknown sister, Holly Granger, as Hawk before Holly died and Hank was resurrected in the Blackest Night event, and they have been Hawk and Dove again since.

The Shrapnel character has two entries in this week's Who's Who section because the Brave and the Bold version is a conflation of two completely different comic book characters. It is not uncommon in media adaptations of comics for a new character gets an established super hero/villain identity, but this kind of conflation, while not unheard of, is rarer, and I like it here. Kafka isn't a physical threat for OMAC, and Shrapnel is a fairly generic thug in the comics, personality-wise, so merging them creates a fascinating new character.

The Global Peace Agency were created for the OMAC series, which didn't appear to be part of the DC Universe, Grant Morrison, master of bringing in elements from all over the history of comics, brought them into the DCU in Final Crisis, cleverly tying them in with the Question, who is similarly faceless. They would appear in the trippy and criminally under-rated Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape and Nemesis: The Imposter mini-series before disappearing after Flashpoint.

The name OMAC has a very different connotation in modern DC Comics. OMACs were mindless servants of Checkmate and Brother Eye, who had been injected with nano-bots to transform them into super strong metahuman hunters, in the mini-series The OMAC Project and Infinite Crisis. These events would spawn a mini-series featuring a self aware OMAC as part of the aftermath of those crossovers. One of the New 52 series was another new OMAC, more similar to Buddy Blank in that it was a sole protagonist, in this case a young man named Kevin Kho, although this title was short lived, being one of the first to be cancelled in DC's new universe.

Although not named, the two races fighting at the beginning of this episode are the Warlords of Okaara and the Controllers. The Okaarans were known for training beings in the art of combat, including Starfire and her sister, Blackfire, while the Controllers were an offshoot of the Guardians of the Universe, who once created a competing galactic police force, the Darkstars.

This episode is the second part of the Equinox trilogy. The first episode, where Equinox appeared just in the trailer, was Mystery in Space! In this episode he appears as the secondary villain, manipulating the main events of the episode. He will appear again, as the main antagonist, in the season finale, The Fate of Equinox!

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