Review: The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 1 by Jonathan Hickman

T15736709Title: The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 1

Author: Jonathan Hickman

Illustrator: Nick Pitarra

Publisher: Image

Format: Trade Paperback

Review:

Having recently been nominated for the Eisner and Hugo Awards, I finally got around to picking up The Manhattan Projects. In a 1940’s alternate history, the US government has assembled the greatest minds to assemble the bomb. Familiar characters grace the pages including Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, and Richard Feynman.

einstein

The bomb is the simplest of their assignments and the team goes on to invent many more elaborate inventions, including a portal to other worlds and dimensions. The story is actually bizarre, so to describe it in a linear summary is somewhat challenging.

It all begins with Robert Oppenheimer joining the secret organization. We learn of his birth and growing up with a sociopath twin brother, Joseph. Robert is eventually murdered by his brother and has his identity taken from him.

Even though this is an alternate history, I would have liked for the characters to be a little more true to the historical figures they represent. Albert Einstein is meticulous in his work and is at times aloof, so in many respects he shares the same persona with his real-life counterpart. Richard Feynman, on the other hand, seems totally out of character. In the comic, he is timid and comes across as serious. This is a far cry from the arrogant scientist who loved to play practical jokes on his fellow associates. I was hoping for him to playfully sabotage some of the other scientist’s pet projects, resulting in devastating circumstances. Instead, we see him cowardly groveling on his hands and knees in unfamiliar situations.

oppenheimer

The artwork has a distinct style, with contours drawn with hard pen lines and colored with a unique pallate. The pages are often mixed with red, blue, and green, which is somewhat harsh on the eyes. I suppose it helps add to the confusion of the setting, but it didn’t draw me in.

Overall, I found this comic to be an interesting read, but I don’t consider it as noteworthy as a comic like Saga. The Manhattan Projects has a brilliant premise that is often intriguing, sometimes confusing, and never ordinary. The comic definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously, but often the characters do. If Hickman can reign in the multiple plot arcs and develop the characters a little deeper, The Manhattan Projects could certainly be one of better series out there to read. The story is fresh and I am fascinated by the great minds that are assembled and what they can create.

 

 

Review of Saga, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan

9781607066927_p0_v2_s260x420Title: Saga, Vol. 2

Author: Brian K. Vaughan

Illustrator: Fiona Staples

Publisher: Image Comics

Format: electronic ARC (via NetGalley)

Review:

Let me start off by saying that in my review of Volume one, I called Saga my favorite comic on the market. I’m a binge reader when it comes to comics (as I am with television) and I almost always wait for them to come out in a collection before catching up. So here I am, with the pleasure of being able to read and review volume two.

I had forgotten why I loved Saga so much and the answer is really quite simple: it’s contagious. Once again, I couldn’t put the volume down, reading from cover-to-cover in one sitting.

Marko and Halana are Montague and Capulet in an interplanetary war. Marko is a ram-horned humanoid with magical powers and his winged bride is from a more technologically advanced society. Because of their forbidden love, both races have sent hitmen after them as they make their escape through space.

screen-capture

But to tell you the plot, is really to miss the point in what makes Saga so special. First of all, the banter between Marko and Halana hits all of the right beats. She’s cynical and independent, but unabashed in expressing her love for Marko. And her husband’s no slouch either. He’s courageous and devoted to his bride, firmly defending her to his mother when she is not even present. But together they bicker in a way that many of us can relate to.

Besides the characters, Saga is also a delight to read because of its inventiveness. There’s a hitman (“The Will”) with his often troublesome lie-detecting cat (“Lying Cat”) and a teenage ghost (Izabel) acts as the child’s babysitter. When Marko goes to a planet to save Izabel, the planet itself is not what it seems.

Unlike the innocence of many space operas, Saga is raw and revealing. Vaughn’s ogres don’t wear fig leafs, leaving nothing to the imagination and his arachnid siren killer doesn’t bother to fasten a bra. The art of these otherworldly creatures is fun and a perfect complement to the writing. The story is honest and intimate, but most of all, Saga is a joy to read. The second volume held up equally to the first and I would love to see it take the Hugo Award this year.

Review: Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

15704307Title: Saga, Vol. 1

Author: Brian K. Vaughan

Illustrator: Fiona Staples

Rating: 5 star

Publisher: Image Comics

Review:

Two worlds are at war. One world is home to Marko, who is part of a race of horned humanoids with the ability to cast spells. The second world is home to Alana, a winged beauty whose society has advanced in technology and is intermingled with robotic life forms with television sets for heads. Their forbidden love has dire consequences as both worlds seek to make an example of their treachery. To make matters worse, they have brought a new child into this war-ridden world. With a fantastic blend of space opera, gritty fantasy, and pulp-style humor, Saga delivers on many levels.

screen-capture-3I’ve been looking for a good space opera comic series for quite some time. I have read people comparing this to Game of Thrones in space, but that simple comparison doesn’t do the story justice. Yes it is edgy, with R-rated language and the sexual exploits of deviant minds, but it does not try to be epic in the grand scale Martin has created in his fictional series. In short, Saga doesn’t take itself as seriously.

But therein lies its strength. Page after page, we experience the humorous exploits of Marko and Halana and the strange mutated hitmen/women that are hired to assassinate them for a bounty. There is great action and fantastic world-building that makes the comic a true delight to read.

screen-capture-2Text in the background of the panels serves as the narration of Marko and Alana’s daughter, who we know survives this whole ordeal, giving the reader a broad projection into the future that these are characters will stay with us. The artwork is well-crafted, fully capturing the imagination of the various creatures and events that take place.

I don’t have a lot more to say. This is my favorite comic out there right now, with a fun blend of humor and speculative fiction much like what Joe Hill is doing so successfully with Locke & Key. Great stuff!