Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Manhattan Projects #17

By: Jonathan Hickman (writer), Nick Pitarra (art), Jordie Bellaire (colors) and Rus Wooton (letters)

THE STORY: A strange alien comes to the aid of the captured scientists.

REVIEW (WITH MINOR SPOILERS): This issue is great if you love the characters and events of The Manhattan Projects.If you're someone who demands that the PLOT be paramount, this probably isn't the issue (or series) for you.

Over the last 4-5 issues, TMP has tried to implement a more structured plot where not-Oppenheimer became the antagonist.I'm not exactly sure what his motives are/were, but he was working in cahoots with President Kennedy and Secretary of Defense Westmoreland and captured all of the other scientists of The Manhattan Projects.

The problem with this plot development is that it started to detract from what made the series so great.TMP is at its best when it relies on strange circumstances, strange characters and visual gags.The plot is really incidental to all the cool stuff like finding out that this slavering monster that Einstein and Feynman discover talks like a surfer dude or that when Oppenheimer injects truth serum into someone, he just leaves the needles sticking out of the side of their neck or seeing Westmoreland all loaded up like a cross between Chuck Norris and Sgt. Elias from Platoon.THIS is the stuff we read TMP for.I can't say that I really care about the "plot" all that much.In fact, the "plot" often gets in the way.

That may seem strange since most of the comics I love and hold dear are those where plot seeming reigns supreme, like Y the Last Man or Transmetropolitan or Punk Rock Jesus, but really .there is room in comics for both approaches as long as they are well executed.The Manhattan Projects is just one of those comics where the zany characters suck all the oxygen out of the room because they're soooo good.The only other current comic that takes a similar approach is Chew (and I love that one too).

The art in TMP is critical to the enjoyment.It all comes down to little sight gags (like the needles sticking out of Groves' neck) or little visual cues that have defined the characters (like Einstein's stained tank-top).It's amazing how Pitarra has perfectly managed to convey this sense of non-chalant, self-assured masculinity about a few of the characters (Einstein and von Braun).Those guys are just MEN.I really cannot imagine anyone other than Pitarra doing this series.

CONCLUSION: TMP returns to what it does best: characters, zany situations and the outlandish.


- Dean Stell

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