Sunday, May 20, 2012

Comic Review -- Manhattan Projects #2: Rocket Man / Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra

The simplicity of the covers in The Manhattan Projects seems to be a point of contention among readers, collectors, and reviewers.  While I won't personally be giving them any art or design awards, I don't see any reason yet for this series to go out of its way with the covers.  The cover, in many ways, makes its case up front, with just enough insignia art to grab your attention and signal the foreboding and uncertainty of the series, and a quick summary of what the issue is about.  I think as long as they vary the insignia designs, they do what they need to for now.

Where last issue's focus was primarily on Dr. Oppenheimer, who in actuality turned out to be the real Oppenheimer's sadistic cannibal twin brother, the focus of this issue is the comparatively normal but still quite remarkable Richard Feynman.  Young, brilliant, and with more than a touch of narcissism, Feynman is given the unenviable task of flying to Germany to recruit Nazi scientists, where he runs into the only remaining one, Wernher von Braun, perhaps their most brilliant rocket scientist.  After a brief verbal sparring match where Braun tries to convince a disbelieving Feynman that they are one and the same, Feynman narrates that he brought Braun to America, where he helped get us to the moon... and years later, even further than that.

It's so easy to get lost in the fascinating story Hickman writes in this series, and he details the characters' personalities so vividly that it's easy for me disregard some of the questions that arise, like whether or not Braun actually had a mechanical arm (he didn't, which saddens me a little).  History's never been a huge strong point for me, so I always have a lot of questions about the characters in the stories here, but I definitely appreciate the artistic license Hickman takes and applies to each of them.  Braun is a "man of tomorrow," and Hickman explains how the fictitious injury Braun feared would make him less of a man is reversed into a theme that at least loosely fits with his designation as the titular "rocket man."

There's also the brief depiction of the other scientists, where we see brief snippets of their personalities.  Oppenheimer is seen as both brilliant and psychotic in his appearance, as he ponders with the other scientists the dilemma of whether or not to add the Nazi scientists to their collective think tank.  Einstein is in forced seclusion, and has a bitter badass streak that makes you wonder just what he's doing here and why he was put in seclusion.  It's quite the interesting discussion, and sets up the premise that we'll be seeing others with their own stories down the line.

Nick Pitarra's line work and visual depictions continue to delight, as he clearly has no problems with detail work and character expression.  Feynman's narcissism, idealism, and occasional idiocy are as deftly portrayed through his facial expressions as Braun's confidence, intelligence, and awesome mechanical arm are conveyed.  There's not much in the way of action, which is also where Pitarra excels, but he does a great job with what he's given in this story.

Overall, I have to say this is a fun series.  I'm generally not into this kind of thing, genre-wise, but Hickman is really telling a good story, and Pitarra draws it well.  I'm definitely in this one for the long haul.  Highly recomended.

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