This one has been out for a while, honestly I thought I had done a review on it but I guess not. Once again the cover art immediately got me interested in what the story could be about. It is very vague and provides a lot of mystery. It immediately got the spider webs off the gears in my head and they started turning. I am somewhat of a history buff and knew what the real Manhattan Project was about, so the title sucked me in as well. I waited for the trade to come out and I had to buy it.
I have read a few comics by Hickman, although I did not care much for Secret, he is still one of my favorite writers. Most everything he writes causes quite a stir in the comic world. East of West is probably his most famous work right now although MP is not far behind. He is very creative and this story shows just how far he can take that creativity.
The story starts out in the last days of WWII. As in real life the Manhattan Project is in full swing. (This is the secret government project where some of the greatest minds on the planet gathered to create the singly most destructive device in human history, the atom bomb.) The story plays off that and creates an alternate history that is more exciting and very strange. The story follows Robert Oppenheimer (who is considered the father of the atom bomb in the real world) and some other famous people including Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman (famous physicist), Enrico Fermi (Fermi Paradox) Harry S. Trumna, and a hand full of other true historical figures. The team is experimenting on different things including an alternate dimension and a visit from aliens.
I liked this one. There is a ton going on in the first trade that will keep just about anyone entertained. I will also say that there is a bit of comedy thrown in as well, so there is a nice mix up between the seriousness of the story and some funnier things that take place throughout.
I certainly enjoyed the alternate history the story portrayed. As I have mentioned I am a history lover and think it is always interesting to see an alternate take on different past events. (One of my other favorites is The Plot against America by Philip Roth that is a very interesting read.) There is almost no other event more exciting to speculate about than WWII. As horrible and utterly destructive as the war was there are so many different ways anyone can speculate about how things may have turned out. I have often felt that the Germans could have very easily won the war had they better manufacturing and resources, as I don’t think there is any argument that they had the superior military technology. They just lacked the capabilities to mass produce it, but that is an argument for another day.
The other thing I liked about this one is all the historical figures that make an appearance in this story. Not only that but without giving too much away there is a evil doppelganger for pretty much every famous person, so the real question becomes which one is which and what are they up to? The thing I like that this story does is really shake up what we think these historical figures were like. It is funny at times to see them wielding machine guns and more or less being bad asses, as most of these figures were viewed very differently in the real world. This is quite different from the norm where the image of Einstein that always comes to mind for me is him sitting in his chair smoking a pipe looking very academic.
This is one of the first comics that I have seen that explores the genre of historical fiction. I would classify this story in that genre but I would say very loosely, as it touches on the actual historical events and people but just barely. It is a fun read and one that you cannot take very seriously as there is a bit of humor that cannot be overlooked.
There is something that rubbed me the wrong way with this one although I cannot fully put my finger on it. I liked the story and the melding of the history and fiction is very interesting especially in comic form. But there is still something that just is off about this one and I cannot figure out why. Maybe it was the artwork, I will get to that in a minute, or maybe it was just how bizarre the story is. Honestly nothing is off limits in this one. They do kind of jump around to quite a few different things which makes it fun, but also makes it hard to follow any sort of continuity. Maybe I am just putting this one under a microscope that is unwarranted.
The artwork in this one is very stylized. I my opinion it is a very goofy gritty style, it can be serious but also helps add to the comedic element. I did not mind the artwork, but it does have a cartoony feel. What makes this one different is the grittiness or the muck that seems to cover each scene that I think helps get away from the cartoony realm. The page layouts and scenes are pretty typical nothing overtly special. The colors I felt were mostly flat and somewhat dull, this is not a bad thing as there really is no need for bright vibrant colors. This seems to be the theme with many of Hickman’s books. The artwork also lacks thick dark outlines that often times make the colors darker. So the many earth tones used still look more vibrant than you would expect.
Overall I liked this one, but there was still something about it that made me not want to commit all the way. I commend Hickman for being the first (as far as I know) to tackle the historical fiction in a comic medium. The artwork is ok, very different and something that you will certainly remember. Page layouts and scenes are nothing spectacular. I wanted to add that I actually bought the very first issue of this one when it came out way back when. I do that a lot of times for multiple reasons, one of the main ones is the hope that the story blows up and the first issue will be worth a ton. It didn’t quite work this time as the first issue is only worth about $25 in mint condition, at least that is what the internet says. The real prize is if you have the second printing of the first issue, that one is worth about $40, so might want to hang on to that one if you have it. I recommend this one, you should check it out if you get a chance. I also think that this is currently an ongoing series. Just something to think about before you get sucked in.