Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Manhattan Projects

The Manhattan Projects is the most brilliant comic book to debut in the 21st century. Honestly, I haven't enjoyed or been as engrossed by a series since the first League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series debuted in 1999, or Mike Mignola unleashed his Hellboyverse in 1993. Now, I'm not saying that this comic is the second coming of Lee and Kirby or anything, and I don't want to hype it up to much, but since I first discovered it on a whim a couple months ago, I searched around every local comic shop to find and devour all five or so issues that have been released so far.

And I recommend everybody else do the same. It's just a damn good comic.

Published by Image Comics, written by Jonathan Hickman, with art by Nick Pitarra, the series presupposes an alternate history where the top secret government project to develop an atomic bomb was just a cover up for another, even deeper secret: This group of scientists were actually conducting investigations into the supernatural. That's an incredibly simplistic, dumbed down synopsis for a series that is anything but simplistic or dumb, but even on a dumbed down level, anybody would have to admit that's a ridiculously fun concept. I don't want to give anything away since part of the fun of this series has been the big reveals and surprises Hickman's mythology has sprung on the reader, but along the way we've seen cannibalism, aliens, interdenominational doorways, super-powered death monk squads, and the consciousness of FDR placed into an artificially intelligent super computer. And most of that was just from the first issue.

Basically, this series does for the folks at Los Alamos what League of Extraordinary Gentlemen did for Victorian literature, although that's kind of an unfair analogy since TMP owns nothing to LOEG and creates its own mythology and worldview that is just as epic and well told. The main characters are all historic figures from the real Manhattan Project, but viewed through the skewed, twisted perspective of Hickman's alternate reality. If you know much about the actual historical characters involved, you'll get a lot more out of this, especially when somebody like Harry Daghlian shows up as an irradiated skull kept alive in a radioactive containment suit. You know what... just read it.

The story is so out there and outlandish it is a testament to the talents of artist Nick Pitarra that he was able to make it all work. His work is highly stylized and akin to the manic energy of somebody like Geoff Darrow, but he also somebody manages to add a sense of realism that grounds the story and makes it feel like history and not fantasy. And he just draws really cool monsters and epic inter-dimensional landscapes. He's one of those artists who's work might look rough or off-putting at first glance, until you finish the issue and realize you love it. Does that make any sense?

So that's The Manhattan Projects. Just... go read it, but track down the first issue first because it is one long narrative full of twists and turns that begs to be read in the proper order. I can't recommend it enough, and I hope it continues on for years to come.

1 comment:

Justin Garrett Blum said...

This sounds pretty cool. I'll have to try to remember to look for the TPB version of this some day.