Albert Einstein was a man of great thought and meaningful words. His vast library of potent quotables has become renowned for the sheer depth of their life-affirming inspiration; I mean, not just anyone can be quoted on both a Facebook status update AND a Hallmark greeting card, right? Perhaps paramount amongst his nigh-innumerable reflections on the human condition is one found within the hallowed pages of Image Comics’ The Manhattan Projects #16, in which he opines (whilst ever so gently removing the head of an inter-dimmensional glob of fat and teeth), “ALWAYS GO FOR ZE ONE WITH ZE CHAINSAW!”
Take a minute and really let the prophetic words of the good Doctor wash over you like the blood of a freshly bifurcated alien creature, because they sum up well what is at the heart of this title. Oh, and maybe get to work on a photoshop with the above quote superimposed atop that picture of Einstein sticking his tongue out; that’ll really beef up your news feed.
Indeed, not just any book could pull off a chainsaw-wielding, cutoff glove-wearing psychopath version of perhaps history’s most beloved theoretical physicist, but The Manhattan Projects pulls it off nicely. Of course, making Einstein into a nuclear threat-level badass is not all this book continues to do well this time around.
With all members of the Projects held against their will at the behest of the traitorous Oppenheimer (who desperately wishes to plunder the secrets of his former colleagues’ programs) and his ear necklace-sporting, government-sanctioned torturer, both they and their now-halted initiatives remain behind the proverbial eight ball.
At the same time, during a previous adventure that takes place during a period referred to only as “Then,” Feynman and Einstein traverse other dimensions, hunting dissection-worthy beasts ostensibly for further study (hence the chainsaw), but also, perhaps accidentally, ensuring their own freedom.
Now, I will say that in terms of writing, this issue doesn’t have the same poetic gravity of Issue 15, which showcased my preferred storyline of the Oppenheimer Civil War, but it does boast a significant amount of pan-dimensional mayhem matched well beside the cold, hard, blood-wet slab-of-granite straits in which the Projects find themselves. What’s nice about that juxtaposition is that you don’t know which side of their lives is currently more perilous, be it at the business end of a monstrously toothy mouth, or staring into the crazed eyes behind a fully-loaded syringe.
I will say that, personally, I’m a bigger fan of when the titular Manhattan Projects are free to roam, scheme and destroy at their leisure, so to see them literally bound is frustrating in terms of narrative. At very least, though, if the end of this issue is any indication, issue 17 is set to “break out” with the same noxious energy that first endeared me so strongly to this series.
In terms of visuals, Pitarra is back on art duties after a brief reprieve last time, and his creepy, wobbly, overly-textured stylized approach continues to set a new standard and proves how good he is at defining his own unique vision for this series. Some reviewers, myself included, have likened his stuff to a nightmare version of Rugrats, and I think he may have taken some offense to that on Twitter. At least from my side, however, absolutely none is intended.
I personally love his work here because of the gore-distorted innocence it conveys. Especially in the scenes where Jordie Bellaire employs a more measured veil of reds and blues - echoing the different characteristics of the Oppenheimer brothers’ conflict - Pitarra’s stark nuance shines through, and this issue once again shows why he is, in my opinion, one of the best, most distinguishable artists in the industry today.
In issue 16, Jonathan Hickman’s Manhattan Projects continues to prove why it is so singular amongst today’s diverse library of books. It’s the hazardous march toward the dark victory of science, the capture and hostile takeover of higher thinking and the danger-fraught conquest of alien worlds. It’s stomach-churning discovery with knives, portals and bloated parasites. In short, it’s Einstein with a fucking chainsaw.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman Artist: Nick Pitarra Colors: Jordie Bellaire Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 11/13/13