Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Manhattan Projects #1

Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Nick Pitarra

I'm not even sure where to begin with this new series by the brilliant Jonathan Hickman.  I am very happy to see Hickman make a more solid return to independent, creator-owned comics, after his recent announcements that he will be leaving the Fantastic Four and Ultimate Comics Ultimates in the coming months.  The Manhattan Projects, with his The Red Wing collaborator Nick Pitarra, is (I believe) an on-going series that is like nothing he has written before (although it is easy to see his slept-on Transhuman as a direct precursor).

The concept behind this series is that the famous wartime Manhattan Project, which created the first atomic bomb, was in fact only the surface of the much larger Manhattan Projects, which investigated any number of strange scientific applications that could be used for weapons.  This issue opens with the acceptance of Dr. Robert Oppenheimer into the Projects. 

He is given a tour of the facility that houses the Projects by the unnamed General in charge of things, right before it is attacked by Japanese robots coming through a gate that was lobbed into the facility.  While all of this is happening, we are given flashbacks detailing the life of Dr. Oppenheimer, and his twin brother Joseph.  It's hard to discuss this part of the issue without giving away a couple of surprises, and so I won't, except to say that I found it very enjoyable.

I will say that Hickman's writing in this series more closely resembles something written by Joe Casey or Matt Fraction than his usual well-orchestrated and plotted projects, which always contain a sense of great order to them.  Here, there is a sense of improvisation and maniacal oneupmanship, as he attempts to outdo himself with ever more crazy ideas and dialogue.  Here are a couple quotes that help demonstrate the timbre of this series:

"This is America... everyone gets a gun."
"A Red Torii.  No doubt Zen-powered by Death Buddhists."

Pitarra matches the writing with the correct level of insanity in the artwork.  His work is looser than it was in The Red Wing, with a little bit of a Rick Geary flavour to his faces - especially Oppenheimer's.  This is a very visually interesting book, as he has to design retro-futuristic scientific devices, which is always a fun exercise. 

I'm very intrigued to see where this series is headed.  If you have been enjoying Hickman's Marvel work, here's your chance to get in on the ground floor of something more satisfying.

1 comment:

zentrader said...

I was very excited to see this book but upon reading it I have mixed reviews. There are some incredibly original ideas here but the whole cannibal thing really grossed me out. Will check out the next issue and decide then.