In the wake of last issue's war of Von Braun, Einstein, Feynman, et. al. versus the artificial intelligence of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the winners sort out the mess, destroy the rest of the Illuminati (including Harry Truman and the Luchador bank cartel leader), and find a way to turn everything to their advantage. Like every issue of "The Manhattan Projects," it's a clever series of far out events that adds up to much more entertainment than just the initial shock value. This is historical fiction like you've never read before.
For starters, FDR is brought back to life temporarily to spill the beans on the Illuminati. That gives our mix of scientists and military minds all the information they need to take out the Illuminati by any means available to them -- science, cannibalism, a door that leads to the vacuum of space and a flamethrower. Geniuses can be nasty creatures when given a chance.
"The Manhattan Projects" feels like a superhero team book set in the past here, with the team methodically taking out the enemies, one by one, with a variety of combinations of powers. Each one is more over-the-top and as hilarious than the last, until you get to Oppenheimer, who takes out Truman in the way you'd expect. Ewww!
Finally, the group enlists President Kennedy's aid in getting additional funding, and Hickman uses the historical record in a way that will be familiar to any reader. Kennedy's call to mankind to go to space will never sound the same again. The last few pages set up the next movement for the series, and it's open-ended enough to leave Hickman plenty of directions to choose. The world is his limit at this point, and it'll be exciting to see which way he goes next. With a series as unpredictable at this one, that kind of leeway can be a blank check to ridiculous carnage and/or science. Which historical figure can be turned on his or her ear next?
Nick Pitarra's art in has all the hallmarks readers have come to expect from him. He draws known historical figures in a way that's familiar, but with a clear twist in them that places them neatly in this book. Einstein looks a little madder behind that moustache. Truman is a scrawny madman dressed in silly clothes. Wernher Von Braun is an equal mix of Hulk, Deathlok and genius rocket scientist. Pitarra's art doesn't falter, delivering panels with a level of detail and clutter second only to Geoff Darrow. In this issue, the standout panel is set in General Groves' office, which is blown apart in excruciating details.
Jordie Bellaire's colors keep the look of the art intact. There's a little shading done in spots, but no attempts to sculpt the art unnecessarily into something more three-dimensional looking. This is a comic book, and the final result looks like a comic book, and that's OK. There's no color keying to wash a scene in a single color. This is just good old-fashioned comic book coloring with a modern spin to it. The bright palette suits the open art style. Pitarra doesn't spot blacks and doesn't need to. Bellaire's colors fill the space without distracting the reader, letting the eyes see eveything on the page without losing the focus of the story.
"The Manhattan Projects" comes to a natural resting point with this issue, but with enough energy to propel it to the next crazy idea that might pop into Hickman's head. This issue gave us the creepy characters doing their creepiest stuff, delivered with gusto and flair. This is a series that's been consistently strong every month since it starts, and an issue like this renews your faith that Hickman hasn't worn out his welcome with merely kooky characters.