A few months ago, I was not sure about how the trajectory of this story was playing out. The first few arcs had run at such a pace and hit such heights of insane comedy that a little waxing and waning was sure to be an inevitability. Even in the hands of this powerhouse creative team, the jail cell and a few of the issues leading up to it were starting to leave me with a little to be desired. This tends to happen with any story that has to set up larger moments for the future. Place setting isn’t always the most entertaining thing to experience, particularly in this medium. But once The Manhattan Projects finally got there, to the moment that it was building to, it soared like an eagle in the bright summer sun. A sun and an eagle, of course, that both bear the face of Robert Oppenheimer. In this issue, that Oppen-faced eagle continues to glide through the air like the majestic lunatic that it is.
By ruthlessly and unceremoniously ending the Infinite Oppenheimer conundrum last issue, Albert Einstein was finally able to return to his home world. It was an insane ride that ended in an even crazier cliff-hanger. There were zero books that I was more excited to read than the follow-up to that downhill slalom of unadulterated madness. Instead of repeating the same energy though, this is a much quieter book. That isn’t to say it is boring in the least, though. It just finds its own energy at its own pace instead of trying to match the energy of the previous issue. This is a technique that is used by many kinds of entertainers, particularly stand-up comedians who have to follow a comic who went before them that was pure high-energy. When the person you have to follow just tore the roof off of the club and people are laughing so loud you can’t be heard on the microphone, don’t try to match that energy right out of the gate. Instead, speak softly and slowly as to force their attention back on to you. Then bring the levels back up and take the room for yourself. In this book, that same technique is implemented.
The central focus of the story revolves around how the Brothers(?) Einstein could possibly come to terms with what has transpired between them. The parallels between Einstein and Oppenheimer were their superior intellects and how they dealt with and utilized their genius, but also the fact that neither of the two men were who they said they were. Unbeknownst to the people around them, doppelgangers had taken both of their places. These lies have now come to an end. How Albert decides to deal with ending his inverted existence is much less violent than the way he chose to end Robert Oppenheimer’s for him. Poor Robert had no say in the matter, but we learn through a series of stories as to why that is. The implications of his death are so vast that it really does need to be seen to be believed. What is even more interesting is this issue clearly establishes Albert Einsten as the hero of this book. While we clearly knew who the villain was, there were no clear-cut heroes. Now we have one.
Writer Jonathan Hickman continues to impress, as the dialogue is heavy throughout the issue but it never wears on the reader. Always remaining interesting and providing insight to the mind of Einstein, I wasn’t bored or distracted one time while reading the words on the page. In fact, the way that the characters evolve in this issue is so unexpected that the fact that the majority of the book is two men talking to one another isn’t even noticeable. Furthermore, the way that the conflict comes to a resolution is so intriguing that I was immediately calling for a spin-off comic in my mind. I’m happy to see Einstein finally getting some much needed page time of his own, as he has one of the more interesting outlooks on life of the whole Manhattan Projects group. Not to mention the fact that he is basically an action hero. An awesome, German, genius, action hero who kicks all kinds of ass.
The art by Nick Pitarra and coloring by Jordie Bellaire are equally as impressive. Their pages are so highly detailed and vivid; the different worlds that we see, the clothing people wear (or don’t wear), the environments and structures within those environments, Einstein using martial arts, it is all a showcase in their combined artistic prowess. I thought the last issue was impressive, but this to me is an even more impactful outing because it successfully intertwines quiet, intimate moments with elaborate sequences of action and violence so well; and at no point was their a decline in visual quality. Even when two people simply drink liquor at a table and have a conversation, things look impressive. Also, in previous issues of this book, red and blue have been such a dominant color combination that it was truly refreshing to see Jordie Bellaire working with a different palette. It is a noticeable change and one that works well. Even when using the absence of color, that accentuates what’s happening on the page all the more effectively.
Lastly, if you are looking for a jumping-on point to get started on this book, now might be a good time. You may have missed a lot but there aren’t many points in this story that I can point to and say Start here. Other than the very beginning. Since one major plot point came to an end in the last issue, this is probably the best chance you’ll get for receiving the information that can help you, moving forward.
The Manhattan Projects continues to remain one of my favorite books on the shelf. This issue delivers thought-provoking dialogue, twisted new worlds, rich character development, and the consistently amazing artwork of Nick Pitarra. Get your hands on this book. Science has never been so insane or so awesome.
“The Manhattan Projects #20” earns a 9.5/10