8
Mar
2012
The Manhatten Projects #1
Review
Chris
The Manhatten Projects #1
Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Penciller: Nick Pitarra


What if the research and development department created to produce the first atomic bomb was a front for a series of other, more unusual, programs? What if the union of a generation's brightest minds was not a signal for optimism, but foreboding? What if everything"¦went wrong.

These words printed on the cover, brilliantly laid out with Hickman's renowned graphic design sensibilities to help his new creator owned project stand out on the shelves, sum up the conceit of this book. Put more simply, come meet the bad boys of Science.

Hickman and Pitarra spend most of this issue peeling back the curtains of The Manhatten Projects, as the new boss, Robert Oppenheimer is introduced to the mad house he will be presiding over. We get a glimpse at a few other familiar historical faces that will be filling out the cast, and an idea of the kind of research being conducted at this facility, that makes the Atom Bomb look obsolete before it has even been created. An attack by a foreign power towards issue's end establishes that the secret war of super science is already well under way, and that this book will be anything but ordinary.

Although the flashback sequences laced throughout the book telegraph the twist ending, Hickman holds back one key piece of information that makes everything all the more horrifying when he finally does completely tip his hand. Inserting text excerpts from a yet to be introduced character's journals increases the sense of foreboding and impending horror.

Nick Pitarra's style is evocative of Chris Burnham, if a little more exaggerated and not quite as detailed. The book straddles the line between absurdist and horrific in that grand Dr. Strangelove tradition that makes Pitarra a good, if not perfect fit for this assignment. The mirrored sequences of the history of the Oppenheimer brothers afford Pitarra some chances to showcase his cleverness in terms of composition, while the assault on the facility allows him to really cut loose with a big action sequence.

Hickman and Pitarra are off to a great and disturbing start with this issue, and I'm anxious to see where the story goes next. It's impossible not to draw comparisons to Hickman's other "secret history of _____" series S.H.I.E.L.D. which also began with a lot of promise but quickly devolved into big reveals of what historical figures were actually S.H.I.E.L.D. founders, and little actual plot progression. This series has the potential to sidestep those mistakes and truly realize a masterful narrative that weaves bizarre and sinister super science into actual history.

Grade: B+


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