We’ve all seen plenty of variations on the occurrences of the World War II era through our comics; everything from Hitler possessing the Spear of Destiny to the triggerman behind Hitler’s demise. The fact that some fertile ground could still be found to reap fresh ideas such as those submitted by Jonathan Hickman in “The Manhattan Projects” is a true testament to Hickman’s creativity.
Posing the comic book reader’s favorite question, “What if?” Hickman centers on the less combative aspects of World War II — the scientific minds behind the Manhattan Projects. Set up as a smokescreen under the premise of developing the world’s first atomic bomb, the Manhattan Projects is not so keenly focused. Developing the first artificial intelligence, working on pan-dimensional space and studying mythological weapons are just some of the activities occurring in the Projects.
Hickman uses Robert Oppenheimer as the gateway character for the reader then immediately splits time between Oppenheimer’s history and the tale of the continued defense of the Manhattan Projects. That gateway character, twisted through the inquiry of “What if?” and spun through a more devious plot twist in his history as related in this issue, quickly becomes more compelling than the thought of the Manhattan Projects being about much more than the atomic bomb.
Nick Pitarra’s intensely detailed artwork lends credence to all of the wild ideas in this story. When the Project is under attack by the Japanese, Pitarra fills the scene with debris, panic and chaos. The Kamikaze Killing Machine is a wild concept in a crazy story coming together in spectacular detail through Pitara’s art and Cris Peter’s colors. Pitarra has a style not unlike Geof Darrow and Frank Quitely combined. The end result is a lively, animated, detailed and heavily designed comic book — exactly what you would expect in a story about the “other purpose” of the Manhattan Project.
The bizarre notion of a scientific laboratory crossed with the warehouse shown at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and a heaping helping of other oddities collected from across the mad rantings of science fiction’s history paints a different background for the story of Robert Oppenheimer. It helps to have Oppenheimer interpreted as differently as Hickman has varied “The Manhattan Projects” from the actual Manhattan Project. This is a comic fit to burst with powerful design work and unexpected developments.