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The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 1: Science Bad Paperback – September 18, 2012
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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Mad science has long been a prime subject for comics. Hickman’s latest series is about as mad as it gets, imagining that the Manhattan Project was really just a front for Oppenheimer, Einstein, Feynman, et al., to get into the really out-there stuff in Los Alamos. And while Japanese teleportation machines (Zen-powered by Death Buddhists), concurrent universes accessed by an enigmatic portal-stone, and shady bargains with warring alien races over humanity’s fate are all good and fun, Hickman’s strongest play is the way he tinkers with the historical cast members at the dawn of the atomic age. Oppenheimer, in particular, gets a disturbingly twisted portrayal, and who couldn’t love giving the Max Headroom treatment to postlife FDR? On the art side, Pitarra’s long-legged figures look like they could have just jumped out of a Where’s Waldo? book and into a zany, bloody conspiracy theory come to life. Determined to blow as many minds on as many different levels as he can, Hickman is onto something with this series. --Ian Chipman
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I was intrigued by the semi-mystical, semi-sci fi approach taken to rewriting history here. I do not know if I would classify "The Manhattan Projects" as alternate history per se, since in AH, the alternate worlds generally have their own internal consistency. There is internal consistency here, but it is intentionally frayed at the edges, as the insane and the embittered intervene in the "real" world for their own ends, or just to play a rigged game of dice with the universe.
The art is amazing. It is both intricate and sloppy, portraying a seemingly controlled world that has chaos just below the surface. As he has done in other works, Hickman uses color to great effect, with the good/sane cast in calming blue and the evil/insane in red.
There are times when the story is so strange that it is hard to follow -- the genesis of the "infinite Oppenheimers" isn't immediately clear, for instance. And the skewed timeline does not quite make sense even within the vague parameters -- JFK is somehow president within six months of Truman dying in office (at which time, at least in this timeline, Kennedy would be below age 35). But these are minor quibbles.