The Manhattan Projects, © Image Comics

Jonathan Hickman has fictionalised and re-imagined (an intelligent What If? if you will) The Manhattan Project (a research a development programme by the US, UK and Canda that produced the atomic bomb during World War II) with pseudo-science and created the strongest opening arc since Y: The Last Man. Such was its strength I immediately ran out and bought The Red Wing (Hickman and Nick Pitarra’s previous collaboration).

Hickman poses the questions, regards The Manhattan Projects, ‘What If the research and development department created to produce the first atomic bomb was a front for a series of other, more unusual, programmes? What if the union of a generation’s brightest minds was not a signal for optimism, but foreboding? What if everything…went wrong?’ He then proceeds to answer these questions, as we learn about the secret role of Earth’s super-scientists in the fall of Germany during World War II, before the death of a prominent figure throws the organisation into chaos and brings about the advent of artificial intelligence and what happens to Einstein after the realisation of Einstein-Rosen bridge. The volume concludes with a glimpse at a brave new world but is it for better…or worse?

Physicists at a Manhattan District-sponsored colloquium at Los Alamos in 1946. Front Row (left to right) Bradbury, Manley, Fermi and Kellogg. In the second row, to the left is Oppenheimer, to the right is Feynman.

At the centre of which is Oppenheimer, surely one of Hickman’s greatest characters to date. However, it is the details and throwaway references which bring a wry smile to my face. A particular highlight is the pairs’ imagining of Enrico Fermi, which is amusing, given his paradox; the apparent contradiction between high probability of the existence of extraterrestrial life and humanity’s lack if contact with, or evidence for, such civilizations. As is the straight-man routine of Feynman, given his well-known fondness for the bongos.

Richard Feynman’s bongos

Pitarra’s work, which has a real talent for capturing facial emotion, has a style akin to a relaxed Frank Quitely. Each panel is packed with detail and goings on. The Manhattan Projects is Hickman unchained and it’s brilliant, expect Eisner Award nominations aplenty.

Incredibly inventive with the potential to be epic. For lovers of history, science fiction and comics in general – this is another title for your monthly ‘pull list’. And if you are like me, it’ll be atop your stack every month.

The Manhattan Projects volume 1 collects issues 1-5 and is one of the best new series of the year. Released on the 19th September 2012.

Published by Mark Brassington

Father and Husband. Works in Corporate Banking. Loves Books, Comics, Cycling, Music, Games, going to the Gym and Writing.

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