REVIEW: The Manhattan Projects #1

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In The Manhattan Projects, writer Jonathan Hickman proposes that the historic Manhattan Project, which focused on the development of an atomic bomb, was instead a high profile cover for the true nature of the program. In this reality, Oppenheimer and company were working on a variety of conspiracy-inspiring super science projects to aid in the war effort and far beyond. The first issue of Hickman and artist Nick Pitarra’s new series from Image Comics introduces a wild alternate history and some terrifying characters.

Spoilers for The Manhattan Projects #1 will follow.

PTB: Jonathan Hickman should be my favorite writer given how much I’ve enjoyed the science, technology and historical elements he brings into his work. Unfortunately, I haven’t read much beyond his S.H.I.E.L.D. series for Marvel before picking this up.

KevinMLD: I had only read the first few issues of FF before this book. I knew he was a writer people were going crazy over, but you know how little nostalgia I have for the Fantastic Four.

PTB: The Fantastic Four don’t normally do much for me either, but Hickman has certainly reinvigorated the franchise. It will be interesting to see how well it does when he departs those titles this Fall. I’m not sure how much future Marvel work he’ll be doing, but The Manhattan Projects has some great potential.

KevinMLD: Hickman imagines a World War II era that includes far fetched technology such as divergence engines that can be used to acquire mythological artifacts and weapons as well as Japanese Kamikaze robots.

PTB: Nick Pitarra’s art style uses a lot of fine lines for detail, particularly in faces, that at times reminds me of Frank Quitely. It works perfectly for the real world setting and figures as well as all of the wild science and technology Hickman brings in.

KevinMLD: The art definitely looks inspired by Frank Quitely though I’m not sure it quite reaches his heights. It also has a Scott Kolins feel to it. The story itself had a lot in common with the crazy science in Nick Spencer’s Infinite Vacation. Speaking of which, whatever happened to that series?

PTB: Spencer discussed the schedule for his Infinite Vacation series in a recent “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) interview on reddit. It looks like the book might wrap up this Spring.

The Manhattan Projects also uses some eye catching graphic design elements that I really appreciate. The same has been true of the Marvel books Hickman has worked on like FF and Secret Warriors, but I’m not sure if he’s the hand behind them. You won’t be able to miss this book on the shelves today, unless it’s sold out like so many of Image’s recent debuts.

KevinMLD: This series certainly could be the next step on a road that’s looking like 2012 may be Image’s biggest year in over a decade. The nice thing is that as much as speculators are pushing the sales of these comics, the content of the books themselves is extremely strong. Image isn’t getting by on gimmicks.

PTB: Hickman is known for adding new layers to Marvel history in the aforementioned S.H.I.E.L.D. and Secret Warriors. Now he’s bringing that to real world history. As with a lot of historical fiction I read, I found myself pulled out of the story a bit wracking my brain wondering if Oppenheimer had a twin brother. I was aware of Frank and his work at Los Alamos, but this “Jospeh” threw me for a loop.

KevinMLD: I’d like to think all of our famous scientists had serial killer brothers who killed and ate things just to consume their soul.

PTB: Not just to consume their soul, but also “because they loved them.” Hickman’s Oppenheimer takes the notion of science standing on the shoulders of giants and adds in eating them from the head down. Joseph’s actions in the book were disturbingly gruesome without being overly gory. I had a tough time getting some of this stuff out of my head, but I’m looking forward to more next month.

KevinMLD: This was definitely a clever, disturbing and entertaining way to launch the series. I’m definitely interested in what comes next.

PTB: The prospect of a confrontation between Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer with the crazy technology at their disposal in this universe will have me following this series for the foreseeable future. I’ll also be taking a look at Hickman’s other new Image series, Secret, when it ships next month primarily because of how much I enjoyed what I read here.

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