the jman sayeth: Why aren’t you reading the Manhattan Projects?

Here’s a lil known fact about your friendly neighborhood jman…I like historical crap (that’s just me trying to be cool in front of you guys, here.  Cause by “historical crap” […]

Here’s a lil known fact about your friendly neighborhood jman…I like historical crap (that’s just me trying to be cool in front of you guys, here.  Cause by “historical crap” I really just mean “history”).  I could watch the History channel (back when, like MTV and music, they used to air historical type programming) all flippin day.

the manhattan projects cover

Know what else I like?  No?  That’s weird.  Because I tell you guys all the time.  Way to pay attention, class.  I like “Elseworld/What If” type stories.  The kind of stories that take known/established tales and characters and turn them around, give them a twist, if you will.

the manhattan projects

What the hell does any of that have to do with The Manhattan Projects?  This Image Comics title, written by Jonathan Hickman and penciled by Nick Pitarra is both those things.  It’s historical Elseworlds!  Or “alternative history” as it’s probably more commonly known.

The premise of the title is that back during World War II, the US, the Russians and the Nazis were all developing projects that involved some seriously crazy stuff.  I’m talking aliens, alien worlds, spacecraft and teleportation amongst some other mind blowing things.  The g-men running the program in the US needed a cover.  So, as Leslie Groves said to J. Robert Oppenheimer during their first meeting:

the manhattan projects

Yea…that’s right.  There’s actual historical figures in this story.  Einstein.  Oppenheimer.  Lt. General Leslie Groves.  All actual players in the actual Manhattan Project.  What I didn’t know until “researching” this article is that ALL the main characters in the Manhattan Projects are actual historical figures.  Now, I say that here, but I’m not entirely sure about the aliens in the story.  However it wouldn’t surprise me if the aliens were based on “historical” aliens, too.

the manhattan projects

The key to this is that they are all “based” on historical figures.  Because, I don’t know if I’m so quick to believe Oppenheimer actually ate people.  Or that Truman was some sort of pagan/cult leader.  Or Einstein was a ruthless killer of humanoid and non-humanoid beings alike.

the manhattan projects

But, again, maybe that wouldn’t surprise me either.

the manhattan projects

There’s secret pacts made with the Russians.  Complete genocides of alien races.  Turning deceased presidents into AIs.  Oh yea.  It’s nuts.

the manhattan projects

The funny thing is, every time the core group of characters gets into some sort of trouble, you’re (at least I was) rooting for them to get out of it.  And it’s not like these are really “good” guys, either.

There’s two “drawbacks” to the series, though.  Not horrible, but enough I gotta at least mention it.  One:  I’m not crazy about the pacing of the series.  It feels like there’s so much that Hickman/Pitarra have just skipped right over.  In 17 issues we’ve gone from mid WW II to the Kennedy administration.  However, I don’t know what the intention is for the series.  Whether the Manhattan Projects is meant to have a short run, or if Hickman plans on going back and filling in some holes.

I REALLY hope the latter is the case.

And point two:  There’s two issues so far that have been dealing with Oppenheimer’s psyche. I don’t want to get into it here (Not that I could if I wanted. To be frank, I’m not quite sure I understand what the hell is going on) but, both issues are long and drawn out.  Bottom line?  Oppenheimer’s nuts.  There’s no doubt about it.  But, I don’t know.  Two issues out of 17 dealing with his internal struggle?  I skimmed those issues.

the manhattan projects

Hey!  Don’t give me that crap!  Like you’ve never skimmed issues before?!?!

the manhattan projects

Since I’m here, I might as well address the art.  I can’t say I’m a big fan of Pitarra’s style.  But, it works for the book.  The grittiness, the unpretty pictures…it works.  I kinda like it.  And besides, this is one of those rare cases that the writing carries the story more than the art does (because I’m an “art” guy more than a “story” guy).

But, like I said, those are just minor inconveniences.  As much as I’d like to, you can’t give these guys a perfect score.  You gotta keep them hungry.  Keep them reaching for perfection.  If not, then they’ll start resting on their laurels.  Next thing you know they’ll be churning out crappy stories, like…well, let’s not mention any names here.  We all know who I’m talking about.

The Manhattan Projects is only 17 issues in.  And it’s been collected in a few trades.  I seriously don’t know what the hell you’re waiting for…

Before you go, though, do yourself a solid and check out the latest episode of the Almost Internet Famous Internet Show.  Then go track down the Manhattan Projects…

your friendly neighborhood jman - Feature Editor

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