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The Manhattan Projects: “The Cold War” (Image Comics, 2012; #21-25)

Happy Wednesday, folks. Guess what?

There’s science to do! Weird science!

If you’re not familiar with The Manhattan Projects, think of it as a sort of alternate history book. Suppose that after developing the bomb, the Manhattan Project kept going as a shadowy cabal led by an Oppenheimer who consumes his other selves to gain their power. Together, they fight aliens, team up with the Russians, and manipulate world events from the shadows.

This volume is about a boy and his space-traveling dog. And a presidential assassination.

Instead of being dark and violent, The Manhattan Projects is wacky and violent. Hickman keeps the weirdness throttle open to the point of absurdity. And that absurdity filters violence in the same way that a tiny umbrella protects the image of a coyote being pancaked by a falling anvil from being violent. That’s not to say that there isn’t the occasional serious moment that might make you feel something, but Hickman doles those out sparingly for maximum impact.

Part of the cartoon comparison comes from the book’s art style. Series artist Nick Pitarra and Ryan Browne give the book a stylized, gnarled look that would be at home on Adult Swim. (In truth, I’m not sure any comics-to-TV adaptation would make me happier than a Manhattan Projects cartoon.) Jordie Bellaire’s colors are clean, letting the lines’ grotesquery speak for itself. In more esoteric moments, more stylized colors help to keep action clear.

The Manhattan Projects is my favorite weird science comic. It isn’t only out there, but it’s also funny, tightly plotted, and intentional. It excels at fitting actual historical figures and moments into its story—and at zagging when you think you have figured out how its story and history will line up. I definitely recommend checking it out.

Collected in

  • The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 5: The Cold War (#21-25)


Writer: Jonathan Hickman | Artists: Nick Pitarra (22-25), Ryan Browne (21) | Colorist: Jordie Bellaire | Letterer: Rus Wooton

Green Arrow: “Island of Scars” (DC Comics, 2012; #6-11)

Civil War (Marvel Comics, 2006; #1-7)