Issue #8 or “The End of Equinox!”
The Equinox arc is one of the most memorable in the series, starting in an earlier cold open when Batman saved the Question and Gorilla Grodd from being killed by the diabolical villain who was obsessed with equality. This episode is his first full appearance and is one of the most memorable episodes in the series for it.
In this issue you will see a knock down drag out war on evil on quite a grand scale. Villains that have lost themselves to blind rage, secret organizations battling against each other, a hero that learns how to be one, and a hero that learns he already was one. But most importantly, it ends with the one act that Equinox cannot figure out how to balance self-sacrifice on his warped scale of good and evil. As far as superhero stories go, they rarely come as pure as this one, neither are they as explosive at the same time.
Suffice to say, we are dealing with one of the best in the show’s run. Can OMAC, Batman, and Buddy put a stop to Equinox’s manipulation- or is this the end of the world? Well, sit tight. It might not be as easy going as you think.
This is the Silver Age at its best folks, so let’s get to it!
#8 – When OMAC Attacks!
Written by: Stan Berkowitz
Directed by: Brandon Vietti
Diedrich Bader as Batman
Jeff Bennett as OMAC / Buddy Blank
Oded Fehr as Equinox
Greg Ellis as Kafka / Shrapnel
Dee Bradley Baker as Brother Eye / Operative
Keone Young as Operative
The GPA (Global Peace Agency) has called Batman in to help them with a special case but not is all what it seems. It seems that a foreign dictator has overstepped his bounds and is declaring war and they want to send Batman in to deal with the situation. They had hired Batman for reconnaissance but his work is not up to their standards and they aren’t above telling him so. Though they have it out for Batman, and are rather rude at the same time, they claim that our hero is the man for the job- he just needs a partner to help.
Cue Buddy Blank, janitor at the GPA, who is called in to clean up a mess before being angrily turned away for incompetence. He looks up to Batman and other heroes and longs to be one himself, but he’s far too weak and clumsy for that.
He seems like a nice guy, far too nice for the GPA, but there is more to him than meets the eye.
Despite being turned away, the operatives inform Batman that Buddy Blank is the very partner they were referring to. All it takes is a little zap of the “Brother Eye” satellite and Buddy Blank becomes “OMAC” (One-Man Army Corps.) who is a whole separate personality. It’s an odd way to power a hero, but it sure is fascinating to think about.
It’s a shame that the only drawback to this power is as large as it is.
He can get sent upgrades from Brother Eye that beams down into him, as well as advice, but doesn’t know anything about Buddy just as Buddy knows nothing about him. He’s strong, but he might not be enough for this mission.
Nonetheless, Batman and OMAC take off to find their enemy’s secret base. Batman prefers the stealthier approach, but OMAC bats him off saying that he doesn’t need tactics when he has upgrades and storms the base on his own. Though clearly outnumbered, OMAC easily thrashes the enclosing army and chides Batman about how easy it was.
From here it should be clear sailing to the General and stopping his insane planning. What can stand against a One Man Army Corps, after all?
“You know, not everything requires excessive force.”
“Hit hard or not at all, I always say.”
“Words to live by.”
But when they meet General Kafka, everything changes. He is planning to use a “grey goop” to “level the playing field” against the GPA but doesn’t exactly explain why. Mainly, he just wants revenge for some undisclosed discretion.
But as OMAC moves toward the General, something in the shadows catches Batman’s attention.
The villain, Equinox steps from the shadows as OMAC begins his assault on the General’s base and takes Batman aside. He won’t take to having Batman interfering with his quest for balance in the world and prevents him from interfering with the battle using his odd powers. Equinox is a madman obsessed with balance between chaos and order to the point where even good and evil pale in comparison with the two.
Batman is too much of a wildcard to be let free, but before he does anything, OMAC has already reached a decision of his own. The only way to stop the General from getting his mad revenge on the world is to kill him. Apparently, the living weapon has decided that the easiest way to solve a problem is to incinerate it. But they were supposed to take Kafka alive! What is wrong with OMAC!?
Our hero stops his fatal blast at the last moment, but it sends the resulting shot into the ceiling and unleashing Kafka’s own poisonous medicine out on himself instead as his base is flooded. Though OMAC doesn’t intentionally kill General Kafka, he is definitely responsible for what comes of his rashness.
The pair flees from the building as it crumbles under them to reveal what still exists of the twisted remains of General Kafka. He calls himself “Shrapnel”, and now he will personally use his own body as a weapon for revenge. His new look isn’t just for show either, with his rock hard body and ability to throw out actual shrapnel- he is a living weapon himself.
Shrapnel isn’t all talk, either- he easily takes down OMAC and transforms him back into Buddy leaving Batman with a narrow escape while the villain cries that he will kill OMAC himself.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire, as it were.
Back at GPA headquarters, the operatives are chiding Batman for his failure at stopping Kafka’s advance, and that he let a monster like Shrapnel loose. He retorts that if OMAC had more of Buddy’s heart then OMAC would be far more powerful and effective as a hero. He would be a solider instead of just a weapon. They shrug him off as useless.
Not only that, the GPA has no record of an “Equinox” and believes Batman is making the villain up as an excuse to cover for his failure. They only see the surface problem of Shrapnel, and are uninterested with anything else.
Meanwhile, Buddy is disappointed with his uselessness when Batman arrives to cheer him up. He’s a better hero than OMAC is, even if he doesn’t have the chance to show it. But his speech is cut short with knowledge that Shrapnel is in town and he’s madder than ever. Why won’t this guy just give up? Well, there’s a reason for that.
Batman warns OMAC to think before charging into their enemy’s waiting fists, but his words have no effect.
“Brainless fool! You didn’t just create Shrapnel; you brought this entire war upon yourself. The Global Peace Agency came to my country to stop a war but destroyed an innocent village in the process. Crops, farmland, all gone. The farmers survived to tried to rebuild, but I survived to get revenge!”
OMAC’s headstrong attitude and fighting style is not enough to catch their enemy off-guard, and he tells them exactly why he’s so angry towards the GPA. The organization may say they want peace, but they do not stop to think everything through- much like OMAC. If it wasn’t for their interference, Shrapnel would not exist, and neither would the city have to be destroyed in retribution. Shrapnel has gotten so strong that he punches OMAC straight through three stories of a building and chases after him into the next city block.
It’s an eye for an eye.
But before Batman can give chase he is visited by the mastermind once again. That’s right, it’s Equinox coming to tell Batman that he has no right to interfere with this fight. One country gets plowed into, it’s only fair that another gets plowed in retribution.
“The scales of justice… balancing right and wrong… it seems our goals are really quite similar.”
“We are nothing alike.”
“They say the flapping wings of a single butterfly can stir a wind on the other side of the world. Ever wonder what impact your little bat-wings have on this world?”
If it wasn’t already clear before, it is clear now. Equinox has no moral center anymore (if he ever did), his powers to hold balance between chaos and order has melted down into seeing good and evil as their counterparts (or the reverse depending on how it suits his strange ideas) completely unaware that he has fallen into evil himself by validating population control via genocide and making sure that the cycle of violence and hatred would always continue and cause more carnage. Equinox is far more dangerous than Shrapnel. He’s probably more dangerous than any villain Batman has fought so far.
And there’s the exact problem. Batman can’t fight him.
His powers of balance makes it so any force Batman uses is rendered harmless and any movement Equinox causes is rendered harmful toward him. It’s a futile battle, but then again- Batman never gives up. But how can he defeat an enemy he can’t hit?
However, the battle with Shrapnel might be going worse as the villain slams OMAC through a nuclear power plant and sets off a meltdown sequence. OMAC still can’t appear to smash through the former General, who only appears to be getting stronger and stronger with every passing moment. He’s so strong, in fact, that OMAC gets an idea. Maybe there was something to Batman’s advice of paying attention to his enemy’s movements.
He calls for support from Brother Eye to up his defense at the cost of his offense, and his brother complies. Still, Shrapnel isn’t impressed with his righteous new glow as he knocks him through the power plant and back into the parking lot with ease.
That was a close one.
Batman arrives at the plant with the intent of stopping the meltdown, but Equinox won’t have it. He engages Batman in a fight our hero can’t win in order to stop him from ruining his perfect “balance”. Batman still fights back, despite the thrashing he receives even though he has no chance against powers of this level.
But the Shrapnel threat is also still at large.
OMAC lands in the parking lot and thanks Brother Eye for the support- otherwise he would be road kill. He asks OMAC if it was a smart idea, and as Shrapnel arrives to finish him off, he tells his brother that it definitely is. Shrapnel wails on the one man army to less and less effect with every blow, as it appears Shrapnel only runs on the rage dished out to him like a twisted version of Equinox and is eventually unable to even budge OMAC’s cheek with a punch.
Eventually Shrapnel runs out of energy and falls over himself and OMAC seals the destructive deviant with a large steel beam. The threat has been neutralized, but OMAC is now out of power as Brother Eye informs him and transforms him back into Buddy Blank. So now what can he do being that he has no idea where he is or what he’s doing?
Well, Buddy Blank stands in the middle of the remaining chaos of OMAC’s battle, but that isn’t what draws his attention.
Over in the plant he sees Batman being knocked around by Equinox and decides to help. He throws the balance of the fight off by tackling the enemy when he is ready stop Batman and gives our hero the second he needs to escape into the radiation and put a stop to the deadly meltdown.
Buddy takes a heavy beating of his own to prevent Equinox from stopping Batman from stopping the countdown, but our hero has no time to stop now. Though the radiation beams down on him, Batman continues to fight back and brings the meltdown to a stop, but it comes at a price. As the heat levels drop, Batman falls to the ground dying. Because of Equinox’s interference, he had no time to get a protective suit, and has paid for it.
Despite all of the villain’s scheming, it was all brought to a stop by one heroic sacrifice. So much for an eye for an eye.
But again, Equinox won’t have it.
“Looks like your flapping wings stirred up a hurricane that even I didn’t foresee.”
Batman’s self-sacrifice might have stopped his plans for “equality”, but the villain would certainly not let his death be on the “impartial” Equinox’s hands. Though that isn’t the reason he gives for saving his life (He wants to choose when Batman dies), given his obsession with being the equalizer, it makes sense.
But now he’s at a crossroads. He can’t play favorites, so how does he fix the balance that he threw our of whack in the first place? Well, he has to erase his own interference. He can’t be personally responsible for pushing for the direct shift of the balance of chaos or order, leaving him with only one option- but it involves admitting defeat.
There’s only one thing for him to do to Batman.
“You can’t control my fate, Equinox. My life- mine to sacrifice.”
“I beg to differ.”
He removes the radiation from Batman’s body to keep the balance and tells our hero that he hasn’t won yet. Though Batman tells him that his own life is one he chooses to give when he wants to give it, Equinox fails to understand. His direct involvement is what threw the balance off in the first place- it was Batman (not OMAC or Shrapnel) that set it right again.
He leaves Batman behind, failing in his attempt at balance, to find something a mere mortal like Batman can’t even stop. But that’s for another day.
Batman is the one element Equinox could not account for- not knowing if he was chaos or order because of the way he deals with criminals and uses him to bring the balance to his side. But he also forgot a second thing, he might have taken into account how hard-headed OMAC was, but he never even gave Buddy Blank a second thought. Who would have thought a janitor could have merit?
Not Equinox, that’s for sure.
Buddy arrives and carries Batman out of the plant, worse for wear. Equinox gave him one crazy beating, but he still wouldn’t let the villain free to stop Batman’s heroic move. He’s quite ecstatic that he was able to not only save Batman but also stop a super villain’s scheme- maybe he really is a somebody after all. Batman and Buddy make such a fantastic team that they should be able to take on any threat!
Surely Equinox won’t mess with them again?
Batman isn’t so sure.
True force, balance, good and evil, and saving the world. Surely heroes have to deal with such things on a daily basis, but it’s everywhere in this encounter with Equinox. However, mostly the episode is about discernment above all. OMAC has the heart of a hero but doesn’t use it, the GPA has a trusted hero in Batman and doesn’t listen to him when he tells them what they need to know, Buddy Blank is more than a loser but nobody gives him the chance, Equinox has no understanding of good and evil but thinks he can control order and chaos, and General Kafka truly believes as Equinox does that an eye for an eye will fix all of his problems and make his country a better place but it instead turns him into a living weapon.
Nobody sees the forest for the trees and it almost costs them the world.
But Batman’s self-sacrifice was the game changer and the one thing Equinox could not manipulate to his own gain. His life to give could only be for a noble cause worthy of giving himself up, and it was to stop Equinox’s plan when he knew full well it was too late. But Equinox still didn’t see it coming, and that is what was most infuriating. Despite all of his manipulation, he is still just a petty schemer with incredible powers; he cannot truly stop those with free-will from being who they are and choosing to do the right thing even when it might be too dangerous or life-threatening. Equinox is just a villain like the rest of them, and that is simply not good enough for him.
But the evil equalizer will not give up just yet, as we will see in the next episode. Equinox isn’t one to take defeat lying down. No, his quest for perfect balance has only just begun!
Until next time, Bat-fans! Same brave blog, same bold place!