Hey gang! Hope you’re all having a grand ol’ day. Get yourselves ready, because this week’s comic is a doozy. If there’s one thing I love about Image Comics, it’s the freedom they give their creators. Some of the weirdest and most wonderful stories I’ve ever read have come from their hallowed halls, and this week’s comic, The Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman (Avengers, East of West) is no exception. Alternate history stories are among some of my favourite types of far-fetched tales, particularly when they involve huge events like World War 2 – the most recent Wolfenstein game (The New Order), for example, takes place in a universe where the Nazis won the war with hyper-advanced technology. The Manhattan Projects follows a similar reality-bending path. Students of history will know of the result of the real-life Manhattan Project – the atomic bomb. Hickman’s tale asks a simple question: what if the project was a front for more interesting endeavours?
The mastermind of the Manhattan Project was Dr Robert Oppenheimer. Or at least, that’s what the public believes. In this reality, Robert was killed and consumed by his psychopathic twin brother, Joseph. Joseph’s mind has shattered, and he is controlled by an infinite number of other Josephs, as well as those he has consumed. Joseph joins the Project, disguised as his brother, and meets the team: Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Enrico Fermi, Harry Daghlian and Werner von Braun. While the initial concern of the team is to appease President Roosevelt’s desire for a nuclear weapon, they each have their own projects, including the development of wormholes, extending human life and unlocking the secrets of mysterious artefacts. With just about every member of the team hiding some form of secret, Joseph must tread carefully if he wants to achieve his goal of assimilating as much knowledge as possible.
So, yeah. The Manhattan Projects is weird as hell, but goddamn, is it fun. I must admit that my knowledge of the real-life, titular project is somewhat limited, but Hickman’s take on it is just fascinating. In Hickman’s version, just about everything we know has a twist to it; for example, the Japanese army uses portals powered by Buddhists, and contact with aliens has occurred multiple times. That’s just a few, specifically non-spoilery tidbits – it gets much, much more interesting. Hickman has written some odd stuff before – East of West comes to mind, as well as a few of the issues I’ve read from his Avengers run – and while it’s a little off-putting at times, in this case it’s quite endearing.
I’m not quite as big a fan of Nick PItarra’s artwork, though; while it levels out a bit as the story progresses, it’s quite off-putting to begin with. I found his characters lumpy and his style a bit too exaggerated, but that’s quite possibly just down to personal taste. It’s not like it interfered with the story in any way, so I’m inclined to let it slide; I’m much more interested in the story as it is.
As it stands, The Manhattan Projects is best described as a blend of bits of Black Science, Wolfenstein: The New Order and Split. It’s weird, for sure, but also incredibly interesting – some really fantastic “what-if” scenarios are played out, and honestly, it’s left me wanting more. Highly recommended, folks!
By Alastair McGibbon
Image sourced via Comics Alliance