When I think of The Manhattan Projects, especially in how uniquely, anomalously non sequitur it has become against anything else in the industry, it is because of issues like this one, wherein Hickman and company are clearly at-play in the fields of the esoteric, and are at their absolute best. And that’s exactly how I want to remember this series: with uncommon and incredible absurdity; or to put it another way - one that is perhaps more thematically-relevant, The Manhattan Projects #19 easily proves why this series is so infinitely singular.
In case you hadn’t yet figured it out from the by-now nigh-iconic and semi-recurring cover style which heralds my favorite Projects subplot, this seemingly marks the end of the so-called “Oppenheimer Civil War.” While the main plot of this book revolves around the titular (and pretty goddamn psychotic) scientist team, this offshoot instead follows the internal psychological warfare that rages between the red-hued parasitic cannibal Joseph Oppenheimer, and his blue-colored nemesis, twin brother and the slightly more historically-accurate (I really do mean that loosely) Robert Oppenheimer.
There are almost too many great things to mention about this particular narrative sidebar, but watching two sets of ridiculously variant Oppenheimers war against each other in a surreal mind-scape for mental dominance over their now-shared body has been some of the most fun I’ve had with comics ... well, ever if I’m honest; and this apparent grand finale was just as weird and satisfying as I could have ever wanted.
I won’t spoil the first volley of Robert’s final charge, but I absolutely love the magnificent innocence with which one of history’s most preeminent theoretical physicists (who helped develop the fucking atomic bomb) devises a plan to essentially destroy the world - or his world, anyway. It’s so goddamn comic book it hurts. And again, that’s just the first punch.
The insane throwdown that ensues is a credit especially to returning artistic visitor, Ryan Browne, whose stuff here is cool on a subatomic level. I’m not really sure what I loved more; the various Oppenheimers that comprise the two armies - and include, this time, a Super Saiyan Oppenheimer and a Robocoppenheimer (nailed it), or simply the fact that his final battle includes a giant, bowtied Joseph Oppenheimer in a fight to the death against his brother, who is himself bestride an electricity-breathing unicorn with a laser canon for a horn. Yeah. Take that all in for a minute, and tell me you didn’t pop OVER 9,000 boners.
Add to this a great (if a bit expected, given the teaser last time) revelation at the book’s end that finally folds The Oppenheimer Civil War into the main plot (however briefly), and The Manhattan Projects #19 becomes a clinic on how you save a series. I wasn’t loving the direction of this arc thus far, but now I’m completely clueless - not to mention pumped - about how this is going to go down. And that’s just the way I likes it!
My one and only lament is that, given the rather definitive happenstance at the issue’s conclusion, this will be our last foray into this fantastic tangent, which has regularly been a way this team has breathed new life into their series. If they can maintain this momentum, however, then this just might become my favorite book once more. Then again, I’ve said that before.
Writer: Jonathan Hickman Artist: Ryan Browne Colors: Jordie Bellaire Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 3/26/14