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Monday, March 11, 2013

The Manhattan Projects. Volume 1. Jonathan Hickman (Writer), Nick Pitarra (Art), Jordie Bellaire (Colours). Rus Wooton (Letters). Image Comics 2012

A Catherine wheel of mad science science fiction, throwing off ideas that sparkle brightly while following a spiral story path of its own. Robert Oppenhheimer is recruited into the Manhattan Projects, the building of the atomic bomb is camouflage for the real work being done in absurd physics and impossible science under the guidance of General Leslie Goves. The story unfolds in a extraordinary fashion, the reveals are breathtaking and the ideas are a constant delight and joy.
With a cast that includes President Roosevelt having a post life existence as an artificial intelligence system, Albert Einstein locked in contemplation of a stone object, Wernher Von Braun with a robot arm and a story that bends and folds like sentient origami that gets a fleeting mention the book is in constant danger of crumbling under its own weight. That it does not do so, that it in fact it steadily gathers pace and momentum as the pieces start to line up together is amazing. Jonathan Hickman has a steely discipline that keeps all the moving parts precisely moving in harmony. This harmony is not apparent on the surface and it takes a while for it to become clear that the story is very considerably more than a random collection of ingenious mad science ideas.
As the  plot mechanics start to engage the sharp edges of the story start to become clearer and the hints and apparent non sequiturs become links in the story chain. The cast are deeply engaging, never simply useful shorthand for ideas, they have strong personal voices and personalities. They move through the strange landscape of the story bringing their own histories with them that add depth and humanity to the bizarre and unexpected. This is vital as the story unfolds the strange humanity of the cast gives force and dark edge to the events.
Nick Pitarra's art is so good that it is impossible to imagine that any other version would capture the delicate balance of the story without tilting it a little too much in one direction or another. The human cast are astonishing in their expressiveness and physical presence in the context. They teeter on the edge of caricature and never become it, reflecting exactly the tension of the story.
The colours by Jordie Bellaire are a full scale character in theior own right, the give the tone of the book and art an extra dimension that is so natural that they almost vanish from recognition. They are exactly the colours of mad science and scientific madness. Rus Wotton's letters are subtle and effective, giving extra expressiveness to the cast. Amazing, exhilarating science fiction, a joy.
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