In “Think Tank” #2, writer Matt Hawkins and artist Rahsan Ekedal continue to flesh out their portrait of a young scientific genius on the brink of treasonous rebellion. A lot of military science fiction is conservative, patriotic and macho, even if scientists and not the uniforms are the heroes. The stuff that isn’t nationalistic is often heavy with tragedy and solemn moralizing. “Think Tank” is refreshing and unusual because it is breezy and funny, yet it also firmly condemns current U.S. military practices. Agree or disagree, it’s a tough balance to pull off.
Main character and resident super-geek David Loren is admirably multifaceted within only two issues. Like anyone, David is slow to realize to the effects of his privilege, and he has been deliberately separated from the consequences of his creative production. He doesn’t know why he turned at the moment he did, and that explanation is oddly believable. “Think Tank” is narrated in first person, and it’s an excellent choice, because David’s distinctive voice is what makes this comic compelling. David is geeky to the core, by turns irritating and endearing, thoughtless and sharp, rascally and dogmatic.
Ekedal’s art is an excellent partner to Hawkins’ characterization and plotting. His facial expressions trace the journey from David’s initial elation to eventual unhappiness and determination to break out. Ekedal transitions smooth between multiple time jumps, and his clean, bright linework buoys David’s snark and humor, keeping “Think Tank” bouncy and light despite the grim odds and the themes of military force and abuse.
The biggest flaw of Hawkins’ writing is heavy reliance on exposition and passive backstory. Several pages are filled by text boxes of David’s internal monologue, with no dialogue in sight. It’s understandable to a point, since “Think Tank” needs to fill readers in on politics and science, but it’s just too much telling, not enough showing, especially in the flashbacks to David’s turning point. All the wordy compression of character development and action works against the suspense of the story.
When Hawkins does advance the story through dialogue and action instead of information dumps, he does a great job. The dialogue flows easily, and scenes where David sasses his captors are tense yet amusing. David’s parting taunt to Dr. Sejic, “Don’t press the red button” leads into a scene that is predictable yet still hilarious. David’s longest exchanges are with fellow scientist Mannish, and their troubled friendship is the strongest part of “Think Tank” #2, culminating in a clever plot twist near the end of the issue.
After each issue’s story, Hawkins has an approachable appendix, a “Science Class” during which he documents how much of “Think Tank” is straight up science or political fact, not fiction or paranoid fantasy. Hawkins writes this “lesson” in casual, sometimes expletive-laced speech, and his enthusiasm and indignation are contagious.
It’s likely that the next “Think Tank” issue will reveal more about David’s “Godfather” plan and whether he is genius enough to save the girl and his friend while gaining his freedom. “Think Tank” has been a hit and the series has been given the green light to expand to at least ten issues. With this larger canvas, it would be ideal if Hawkins and Ekedal could tone down the information dumps, while keeping the characterization, humor and suspense strong.