Dan Meth of Buzzfeed declared cartoonist Benjamin Marra’s “Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T (One Man War on Terror)” to be “the most badass graphic novel ever created.” Those bold words have been echoed by critical acclaim throughout the comics industry, but you’ve wisely come to AiPT! for the definitive answer to the only question that really matters: is it good? Let’s just say… yes.
Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T. (One Man War on Terror)
“O.M.W.O.T,” the bespectacled, suit-and-tie wearing killing machine (and sex machine) whose real name is never given, is part of the Terror Assaulters, a “super-secret team of U.S foreign service agents committed to the protection of American interests overseas” created by George W. Bush “in 2001, as a response to the terrorist attacks on September 11th”. O.M.W.O.T mercilessly kills anything that gets in his way, including several innocent civilians, on his quest to single-handedly end terrorism.
If that sounds like a childish, insensitive reduction of the complexities of the War on Terror, that’s because it is. Terror Assaulter reads like it was ripped directly from the notebook of a twelve-year-old boy in the early 00s, shortly after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, back when we still believed that Saddam Hussein was hiding Weapons of Mass Destruction. This boy lacks the knowledge or maturity to understand these attacks, as his worldview is informed by the 80’s and early 90’s comics that he got from an older cousin, the R-rated action movies from the same era that his parents think are okay for him to watch, and a whole lot of internet porn.
That’s how you have to read Terror Assaulter, because it’s too ridiculous in too specific of a way to be anything but completely intentional. Like Sexcastle, Terror Assaulter definitely takes cues from 80’s action movies, especially when it comes to quippiness. O.M.W.O.T has an amusing habit, for example, of starting sentences with “let’s just say…” when what he’s saying isn’t at all euphemistic. But Terror Assaulter probably owes more to the comics of that same era. Just as characters in older comics often would state the obvious, dialogue in Terror Assaulter takes that to a ridiculous extreme, in a way that, again, seems like the kind of thing that a twelve-year-old who hasn’t quite learned about subtlety yet would do.
“AAAAIIIIEEEE! They’re killing me!” says a man as a terrorist slits his throat.
It’s even better when dialogue is punctuated by periods rather than exclamation points, as if the characters themselves are jaded by living in this hyper-violent, hyper-sexual world:
“Aah. You broke my leg,” says a ninja after O.M.W.O.T kicks him in the shin.
And it’s best when that same level of bluntness and lack of enthusiasm is applied to the sex scenes (more on that in a moment):
“You’re taking off your clothes,” says a woman that O.M.W.O.T goes on a “date” with after saving her life, in one of the few sexual lines that I feel comfortable quoting.
I’ll talk more about the sex in a moment, but first, we need to discuss the violence, which, like the sex, is over-the-top to the point of being hilarious. Take a scene in the second chapter, in which O.M.W.O.T foils a terrorist hijacking on a plane. He doesn’t seem to initially care that people’s lives are in danger, or even his own. It’s only when the terrorists start to bother him directly that he steps into action. It is here that we definitively learn (if the first chapter didn’t already make it abundantly clear) that O.M.W.O.T is a psychopath. He kills the terrorists not because he’s a hero, but because it’s just what he does.
“Hi don’t shoot,” says an unarmed terrorist. “I’m a hijacker but I don’t want to fight.”
“Not so fast,” says O.M.W.O.T as he shoots the man several times in the face, as stray (or intentional) bullets hit civilians.
“You’re shooting passengers! You’re shooting passengers!” says a man, horrified.
“Master your emotions,” O.M.W.O.T tells him as he punches the man in the face.
Later in the chapter, O.M.W.O.T lands the burning plane while fucking a male flight attendant. It’s badass in a way I would have never expected from this kind of book.
The sex in this comic is as over-the-top as the violence, if not more so. It highlights how much more desensitized we are to violence as compared to sexual content in media. I don’t care how much porn you watch, you are not prepared to see how explicit the sex scenes (and there are a LOT of them) are in this comic. I mean, sure, I guess if you watch porn it’s unlikely to be anything that you haven’t seen before, but I can’t think of too many action comics that go this hard when it comes to delivering prolonged, anatomically correct sex scenes.
And even if you can find a comic like that, I’d be shocked if the lead character was as indiscriminate about who he has sex with. Marra has described O.M.W.O.T as pansexual, but there must be a better word for someone whose sex life resembles a character in a porn film, so frequently having sex with other characters within moments of actually meeting them. It’s so over the top and frequent that one could describe the comic as pornographic, but I think there is too much comedic and artistic merit for it to deserve such a diminishing title.
After all, it does contribute to the central joke that I mentioned before: this is how a twelve-year-old, or let’s face it, an immature adult, would view the war on terror. Evidently, this twelve-year-old may have some surprisingly progressive views on sexuality, but beyond that, Marra is making a statement about the nature of manliness. Because as horrifyingly psychopathic as O.M.W.O.T is, the truth is that he’s also presented to us as a badass. So why must we always associate manliness, or badassery, with heterosexuality? And doesn’t it make sense that someone who kills so indiscriminately wouldn’t be very particular about who he has sexual contact with? It’s not like he’s capable of making an emotional connection!
It’s telling that Marra draws genitalia so much more realistically and anatomically correct than he does everything else in the comic, further proving my point about whose mind this comic is borne from. There’s a charmingly amateurish look to the comic, colored only by primary colors, so look elsewhere if you demand that your comics look like Jim Lee drawings. The action flows well enough, sure, but there’s also a stiffness to the figures that contributes to the overall atmosphere of the book while also adding a comedic touch.
Take this moment from the first chapter: O.M.W.O.T, after having just killed some terrorists, walks down the hall as two business men approach. For no apparent reason, he kicks both men in the face, with both legs, at the same time, his body forming a right angle in midair. It’s kinetic, but it doesn’t resemble anything an actual human body could do, which helps make it laugh out loud funny.
The faces that Marra draws are perfectly imperfect, too. O.M.W.O.T’s features are too simply defined for us to see him as handsome, but we are supposed to understand that he’s handsome because other characters say so. Similarly, the women that Marra draws have appealing bodies, but their faces are not what one would consider attractive, at least not in the way that, say, Jamie McKelvie draws women.
If you can accept the idea that this is all a twelve-year-old boy’s fantasy, you’ll have a great time with this comic (you’ll also have an easier time appreciating the book’s political implications, as there are surely adults in power that have this simplistic a view on the war on terror). Your mileage will likely vary depending on how inherently funny that central conceit is. If you don’t like Axe Cop, for example, than Terror Assaulter probably isn’t for you. Moreover, I can’t imagine that Terror Assaulter, with unprofessional-looking art, over-the-top action and explicit sex, all with an underlying dry sense of humor, will have a particularly broad appeal. Even if you are in on the joke, you may find it getting stale eventually. I never had that problem, though.
Is It Good?
Let’s just say… if you’re entertained by bombastic sex and violence but are also self-aware enough to see the humor in it, you’ll love Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T. If you’re not that kind of person, though, this definitely isn’t for you. Go read Proust or whatever instead.