The Manhattan Projects: Science Bad (vol. 1)
written by Jonathan Hickman
illustrated by Nick Pitarra
“What if the research and development department created to produce the first atomic bomb was a front for a series of other, more unusual, programs? What if the union of a generation’s brightest minds was not a symbol for optimism, but foreboding? What if everything…went WRONG?”
Two sides of a coin … One is good … One is bad. In the case of Jonathan Hickman’s (Fantastic Four) newest alternative history, The Manhattan Projects, Hickman posits a world where noted scientist (and director of The Manhattan Project), J. Robert Oppenheimer, has a twin brother, Joseph, who is his diametric opposite. Unlike what we know about Oppenheimer, a pacifist and left-leaning scientist, who in addition to interest in the field of nuclear physics, also took a liking to eastern philosophy (hence his borrowing from The Bhagavad Gita for his most famous quote “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds” after the detonation of the first nuclear device) and humanities (naming the first nuclear test, “Trinity”, after a stanza from the John Donne poem, “Hymn to My God, My God, In My Sickness”), his brother Joseph is a cannibalistic, megalomaniac, who suffers from multiple-personalities that manifest from his consumption of human flesh. In this first volume, we are introduced to the changing of known history when Joseph kills and consumes Robert as a young boy, then inherits his identity, by claiming the young Robert ran away. During the 1940s (right around the end of WWII), this evil Oppenheimer is introduced to a government-backed cabal of “mad” scientists, in Los Alamos, New Mexico, at the site of the Manhattan Project. And here we learn the hook of the story as Hickman leaves our reality to posit, “What if … the Manhattan Project, was just a cover by the United States Government, to allow scientists to indulge in mind-bending pseudo-science experiments, such as accessing parallel universes, engaging with alien races, consulting the transferred brain of a deceased FDR, recovering alien artifacts and so much more.”
The Manhattan Projects, is a terrifically mind-bending tale, populated by historical figures, who are askew of what we know of them. Richard Feynman, our narrator and potential protagonist, is a narcissist whose notes on the Manhattan Projects have been published in his journals Clavis Aureas (The Golden Key) … Einstein, who has been confined to Los Alamos and has become a little too drinky … Werhner von Braun has a robotic arm … Enrico Fermi may not be of Earth … and Harry Daghlian, who is reality was the first peace-time causality of a nuclear device, has to live in a suit that keeps him from being irradiated. On top of Hickman’s uniqueness of a story, artist Nick Pitarra, adds a distinct look to the book, channeling Frank Quietly and Moebius on his detailed backgrounds, coupled with caricatured versions of historical figures.
You can find The Manhattan Projects, in the Library’s Graphic Novel Section, or check out some more creator-owned works by Hickman. You can also continue reading after the jump for resources that can give you a historical perspective on Oppenheimer and the actual Manhattan Project.
Resources on The Manhattan Project