Comic Review: The Manhattan Projects Volume 1 / Written by: Jonathan Hickman / Art by: Nick Pitarra, Jordie Bellair / Publisher: Image Comics / Release: Out Now
World War Two is prime real estate for alternative reality stories; far enough in the past to allow the author to make radical changes, but at the same time still familiar to most readers. The Manhattan Project gets a lot of attention because of this. After all, a room filled with the nation’s greatest minds of the time has a lot of potential for changing the world. The Manhattan Projects takes a cheerful spin on all this by adding dimension hopping to the mix, making for a dark and macabre tale.
One of the problems with tales like this is that Oppenheimer, Feynman, Einstein and the rest are all very interesting anyway. Simply giving Albert Einstein a death ray and some slightly creepy tales to tell doesn’t add anything to the premise, because he was cool to begin with. Manhattan Projects attempts to work past this by radically reworking some historical characters, but often this sails past the idea of ‘cool alternative version’ and into the realms of ‘why did you bother?’ Often the changes are so great that it misses the point of having that person in the story, and the whole thing would have been better served with a new (and entirely fictional) character.
Still, the art fits the story quite well and there are enough interesting ideas to keep the reader entertained. This is a very American comic book, from the premise through to the art and plot, and though it’s nothing terribly new, it is fun in a strange and gross sort of way. Manhattan Projects is filled with the sort of weird and strange adventure that science nerds adore; fans of The Venture Bros and the work of Jim Ottaviani will find this worth a read.