Space age problems require space age solutions, atomic age problems, atomic solutions, this book is about the scientists behind the solutions. Just because they’re widely regarded as the most brilliant minds the world has ever known doesn’t mean they can’t be a bit MAD!
Title: The Manhattan Projects Vol. 1 (Science Bad)
Writer: Johnathan Hickman
Art: Nick Pitarra
Colors: Cris Peter
Letters: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: September 12th, 2012
What You Need to Know:
First and foremost, this is a work of fiction starring a host of real-life persons both living and dead, so on and so forth, Harry S Truman PROBABLY wasn’t an orgy obsessed mason. Considering the alien tech and cyborgs you’d think everyone would know right off hand it isn’t based on real events, but there’s always one somewhere.
Richard Feynman, Robert Oppenheimer, Albert Einstein, all are regarded as some of the most intelligent men in history. You know what they say about idle hands, paired with nigh unlimited resources things get interesting! Mad Science has never been so fun!
What You’ll Find Out:
We open on the War Department, 1942, in the office of General Leslie Groves. He is talking to Robert Oppenheimer, he tells him he’s essentially already hired, just as long as he understands, the Manhattan Projects are the long game, they aren’t troubled by small things like the conflicts between nations, for them, the nation is always at war. Oppenheimer agrees and comes aboard as civilian director of one of the most powerful organizations on the planet.
We have a brief interlude of Oppenheimer in the womb with his twin brother Joseph. We cut back to Oppenheimer and Groves checking into security at Base Zero, below the War Department. Groves explains that although the public thinks they are working on the atomic bomb the truth is much more shocking, teleportation, robots, lasers, superweapons, pandimensional nonsense, they’re working on all kinds of crazy stuff.
As they head down the hall Oppenheimer points out a solitary man locked in a room with a monolith. He smiles a small smile as they walk by, Einstein is working on something big! As they walk down the hall an alarm begins blaring. There is an object on a collision course with the station. The Japanese are attacking!
We have another interlude to Oppenheimer growing up, with his brother in parallel, as Robert works on knowledge and equations, Joseph tackles pursuits of a decidedly more violent nature. Suddenly a giant gateway smashes through the ceiling embeds itself in the floor, a gong chimes and a horde of samurai robots run through the portal contained within the gate, pushing through they begin killing the scientists. Despite having zero combat experience Oppenheimer has to pick up a gun and defend himself, jumping on a heavy machine gun and mowing down a bunch of robots.
The portal is powered by human energy, and a MP telepath holds the portal open and Groves sends a battalion through, telling them to kill anything they can, burn the place to the ground and drop a flag on their way out, so the Japanese know who did it.
We cut back to Oppenheimer, this scene is insane, it is portrayed below in full. Enjoy.
We cut to a Nazi-occupied lab in 1940, Professor Werner Von Braun is being outfitted with a robot arm to replace his arm, which was crushed in an unspecified manner. He has a talk with Hitler, who asks if he can trust him in his mission to purge the planet, Von Braun tells him he is committed to The Cause, without specifying what that cause is.
We cut to present day (1942 anyway) Richard Feynman is getting ready for work, preening like a peacock, he’s clearly quite vain and full of himself, perhaps rightfully so. He arrives at base zero and receives his orders for the day, he’s to let Einstein out!
Einstein seems unsurprised that Groves wants to see him, grabs a quick drink and heads out. Feynman shows Einstein the portal, called a Red Torii, it’s powered by human psychic energy, they’re running low on captives to power it. They head through, leaving the east coast (either Washington DC or New York) and walking out the other side in Los Alomos New Mexico.
They sit down at a table with Enrico Fermi and the science monstrosity that remains of Yuri Daghlian. They receive a newsreel from president Roosevelt himself telling them to enable operation paperclip, which involved bringing in Nazi scientists after Germany’s surrender to the allies. (this actually happened after ww2, 1600 former Nazi scientists were given full pardons and cushy jobs in the US during the cold war)
Next thing we know Feynman is getting dropped into Germany to track down a scientist by the name of Werner Von Braun. The winds blow him a little off course, and into a large military contingent well behind enemy lines, he grovels hilariously until they reveal they’re American.
We cut to Von Braun inside his castle, he is surrounded by other scientists, but unable to find his assistant Helmutt. He figures he may as well start without him, and begins handing out glasses, his goal is to deny the allies the scientists they desire by utilizing the ultimate solution. But really, his goal is to cover his robot armed butt when he bails on this sinking ship. When the soldiers and Feynman break in he is sitting in a room full of corpses. He greets Feynman warmly, knowing him by reputation and giving him the respect due to someone of his intelligence. Feynman doesn’t share the same professional courtesy to the mass murderer before him, and to his credit stands up to Von Bruan. Unfortunately, Von Braun made himself indispensable by killing all his compatriots, he’s the only one they can use. As they leave he tells Feynman all that matters is the cause. Science is what’s important.
Later Feynman walks into Einstein’s room, he’s sitting and staring at his monolith again, it’s all he does. The scientists need help with the atomic bomb though, they’ve come up with 2 contradictory delivery systems, and can’t decide which to use. Einstein in true Gordian knot fashion tells them to build both.
Elsewhere President Roosevelt slumps in his wheelchair one final time, and Harry Truman’s Masonic ritual is interrupted by the secret service. He panics, thinking he’s busted, but it’s the opposite, he’s about to be sworn in as president.
At The War Department an ambulance speeds up to a hidden door, and a gurney is wheeled inside. President Roosevelt’s corpse is laid out on a table and the doctors begin hooking up electrodes to his head, they need to do this while there is still a residual electrical charge within Roosevelt.
At the White House we find Harry Truman meeting with Oppenheimer, Groves calls and patches through. The General explains that until now Truman has been in the dark, intentionally, the MP only answer to the president himself! He explains the concept of the atomic bombs, and tells Truman he has 2 minutes to decide if they get dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki! As the Data upload of Roosevelt’s brain finishes Truman tells Groves not to proceed with the mission, which the General pretends not to hear. Truman continues to yell not to fire the bomb, Groves pretends to misunderstand as the scientists hook Roosevelt’s computer brain up to a ticker, it’s first words are “All we have to fear is ourselves!”
The end of this volume involves another dimension and genocide! This is a fantastic book, pick up a copy today!
What Just Happened?
I adore this series, it has a touch of absurdity but also a solid plot, its so interesting to pick out the bits of real history, which are surprisingly common in such an out there book. Man, what fun it is to read again! I have all 6 volumes but haven’t read volume 1 in a while. Still just as good as I remember.
I think the way each issue focuses on an individual, without feeling like it. The Oppenheimer stuff is really bizarre, but its fun the way each character has weird quirks about them. Feynman’s vanity and Einstein’s drinking are also pretty fun. My favorite is Von Braun though, his drive and willingness to do what needs doing are entertaining as hell.
I noticed some parallels that are notable for actual history:
Harry Truman was, in fact, a weirdo freemason, I lied earlier.
Harry Daghlian died of radiation poisoning after accidentally irradiating himself, in the book he’s an irradiated monster.
Werner Von Braun was addressed by his correct real-life rank of Sturmbanfuhrer (Major) and was in fact secretly kidnapped out of Nazi Germany toward the end of WW2 as part of operation paperclip, and was one of the main reasons the US made it to the moon first. (in volume 2 he sets up a moon base for the MP)
Interestingly they did have division of ideas between a rail gun type plutonium delivery system vs a fission bomb, but the type of plutonium they were able to use was too volatile to use as a ballistic, resulting in the familiar fat bomb we know, and the projectile delivery became the basis for little boy, which used uranium rather than plutonium. So they did, in fact, make both designs.
*All info has been researched by me independently of the book, to crosscheck for accuracy
I only summarized 3/5 issues, so as to leave plenty to discover, the last couple issues are great, this was when Hickman was really in his groove, and you can definitely tell. Not that he’s doing worse more recently, Hickman is good no matter what!
Nick Pitarra’s art can be a tad rough at times if you aren’t used to it, but honestly, it fits the story perfectly. Some of the character designs and gadgets are so super cool.
When I first read this volume I went back the next day and got the following five, so if I were you I’d just buy all 6, maybe wait for a Barnes and Noble sale? Worth your time for sure. Amazing series!
If anyone ever wants to contact me, look me up in my group for the love of comic books , I also have several comic pages dedicated to my various true loves, Batman, Superman, Indie Comics, Spider-man, Marvel, Oldie Goldies and Hats! (Long story on that last one haha) or on Twitter @johnbatusijack
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