By: Jonathan Hickman (writer), Nick Pitarra (artist), Jordie Bellaire (colors) and Rus Wooton (letters)
The Story: The powers that be declare war on the scientists.
Review (with minor SPOILERS): This was the first issue of The Manhattan Projects that I haven’t loved. Further, it made me feel left out.
The early issues of TMP were overflowing with good ideas, clever concepts and sick humor, but it really needed a central story to congeal around. This issue made me feel like that central story started a few issues ago and I just didn’t pick up on it. Stated another way, this issue felt like starting a novel in Chapter 3 where you kinda know what is going on, but feel like you’ve missed something too.
The finger of blame falls squarely on the release schedule. Issue #7 came out in early November, Issue #6 came out in early September and Issue #5 in July. I’m sorry, that just isn’t good enough if a series is going to transition from cool, done-in-one, let’s-meet-the-characters issues into telling a bigger story. I know that creators are busy, but making fans feel like they need to revisit old issues to study so that they can properly enjoy the current comic is no way to run a railroad. Creator owned comics exist on a razor edge and they only thrive if the fans have a passion to buy….and passion doesn’t work when it only get’s tweaked every few months. A better approach would be to do what Saga recently did: publish 6 issues and then take a planned break for several months, allow everyone to catch up and work ahead and then publish the next 6 issues on schedule. I’m sure someone in the comments will say, “That’s why I read it in collected format.” and I’m starting to think that might be a better plan. I wish folks who read single issues and put the most immediate cashflow in the creators pockets weren’t made to feel like they’re getting a lesser experience.
As for the actual story of this issue, it is fairly basic. Basically, the powers that be in the world (Masonic President Truman, Artificial Intelligence FDR and a few other dudes) decide to kill our beloved scientists. FDR is chosen as the destructor and pursues the scientists by bouncing his program from machine-to-machine. The actual action isn’t that compelling and I don’t know that I’m invested enough in these characters to feel loss when someone dies or is injured.
Again, TMP is getting by on the wackiness of the concept. I mean, the initial scene is beyond weird: the President of the United States (Truman) is in a masonic robe and crown and has a demonic sheep at his side. Weird. We’ve seen the AI FDR before, but that is still creepy and weird. I’m not sure we’ve seen the rest of this Illuminati before, but one of the guys is this hulking luchador who is sitting on a throne made of stacks of money. The weirdness doesn’t end there either. All of the Illuminati have a beverage or snack on the table. Truman has coffee, the luchador has hot peppers, the polynesian dude has a drink in a coconut with a little umbrella and the pharaoh-looking guy had a bug–no kidding–Truman has coffee and the Pharaoh has a BUG.
I find myself enjoying the weirdness of the comic MUCH more than anything that could be called “the story”. I’m not sure if this weirdness is just Nick Pitarra screwing around or if Hickman is suggesting this stuff. I’m generally not a huge Pitarra fan because his style is a little too light and delicate for my tastes, but I DO love how the guy ad libs in scenes. I mean, later when the Illuminati have to join hands around the table, everyone clasps hands except FDR who has no hands (because he’s an AI in a computer), so his neighbors hold one of his cords. If you look closely at the cord it says, “For Power Surge”. LOL.
Conclusion: I’m enjoying the weirdness a LOT more than the actual story and the delayed publication schedule isn’t doing this series any favors.
– Dean Stell