Best Shots Advance Reviews: MANHATTAN PROJECTS, LOST VEGAS

Don't forget to check out our advance review of the first issue of Jupiter's Legacy by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely!

 

Manhattan Projects #11

Written by Jonathan Hickman

Art by Nick Pitarra and Jordie Bellaire

Lettering by Rus Wooton

Published by Image Comics

Review by David Pepose

'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

There are two sides to Manhattan Projects #11, one that plays straight to Jonathan Hickman's strengths, and one that shows there's still plenty of depth that this writer has barely tapped. Suspended in a solution of sci-fi-infused weirdness, Manhattan Projects #11 pulls double duty by not just setting up Hickman's future plots, but also tells a heartfelt story about two best friends.

 

At first, reading this story might remind you a bit of Alan Moore's Watchmen, with Doctor Manhattan being replaced with Harry Daghlian. Whereas in the real world Daghlian died of radiation poisoning, Hickman has made Daghlian a glowing monster, a horror story that has changed the world around him through sheer revulsion. But unlike Watchmen, which analyzed Dr. Manhattan as a global force, Manhattan Projects uses this opportunity to tell a much more human, much smaller-scale story: Daghlian's relationship with Dr. Enrico Fermi. Their arc isn't a sweeping one, but it is poignant and kind, peppered with the sort of scientific sparring that has become Hickman's signature.

And that science-speak certainly helps set up future conflict within this series, as well. Hickman's plans-within-plans are so detailed that it's difficult not to be impressed, so watching the inner council of the Manhattan Projects is worth the price of admission alone. Oppenheimer has long been a ticking time bomb in this series, and Hickman's sweeping ambitions for this homicidal genius is chilling because it makes so much sense. The most dangerous weapons come from previously useful ideas, so you can see how the council might go along with Oppenheimer, even as we the reader might be shouting for them to open their eyes to the danger.

 

Artist Nick Pitarra, meanwhile, is the grounding to this heady script. His artwork is cartoony, expressive, and occasionally even over-the-top (Werner Von Braun, I'm looking at you and your Iron Cross). Pitarra reminds me a bit of Chris Burnham, with his characters either veering towards big and bulky or stick-thin, but that sort of weirdo vibe keeps this comic from getting depressing. Pitarra also does a great job with composition and setting a scene — the moments with Fermi and the irradiated Daghlian sitting together are really touching, and Oppenheimer's presentation flows surprisingly well considering its mostly dialogue-driven. Jordi Bellaire's colors, set mostly with blues and reds, keeps this book's energy flowing strong.

While we've seen Hickman's planning skills for years, in books ranging from Fantastic Four to Avengers, I feel like sometimes people think that's all he has to offer. Manhattan Projects #11 says otherwise. It says that Hickman, especially with an artist as expressive as Pitarra, has more than just formulae and plot points in his arsenal — he also has a command of emotion and sentimentality that gives warmth to his work. It's not rocket science — it's human drama, even in the most technical of environments. It shows that that Manhattan Projects still has a lot to teach us. 

 

Lost Vegas #2

Written by Jim McCann

Art by Janet K. Lee

Published by Image Comics

Review by Pierce Lydon

'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Jim McCann and Janet K. Lee’s space-age sci-fi adventure, Lost Vegas returns with issue two and the pace slows to throw a wrench in our protagonist, Roland’s plans. Some of the setup that was traded in for an action-packed intro shows up here. And while the familiarity of certain elements provided an easy hook for readers in issue one, it’s hard to shake the feeling that we’ve seen some of this before in other series and it was a done slightly better.

One of the most compelling parts of the world of Lost Vegas is the blob-like alien, Ink. This issue really showcases Ink’s skills as it manipulates card games and other situations to help Roland escape. Because of it’s unique body, it also allows for Janet K. Lee to explore some interesting page layouts that really evoke the tone and setting of the story.

 

But Ink was unfortunately the only thing I really took away from the issue. The rest of the issue is solid but nothing really stands out. Roland continues with his plans and runs into some a few new characters, notably a giant talking, scientific reindeer and the daughter of the admiral in charge of Lost Vegas. In focusing on plot development, McCann sacrifices exploring some of the world of story potential that was so intriguing in the first issue. There is a feeling that more action is on it’s way but this issue exists solely to set-up the next round of trials and tribulations that Roland is due to face.

 

Janet K. Lee’s artwork is just about as good as it was in the previous issue. There are a couple of panels with odd angles or faces but nothing that takes away from the clarity of her storytelling. She also gets to have some fun with Ink’s portrayal.But her design for the character on the final splash left me wanting. I have generally been impressed with her character designs in this series. The great thing about aliens if that they don’t have to look particularly human. Instead of being at all menacing or interesting, Roland’s next big foe if a castoff from the Blue Man Group in a military uniform.

This issue drags a bit but there are some interesting moments. It will probably be the kind of issue that reads way better in trade paperback format because you’ll immediately be able to get into the action that issues three and four are sure to offer. The art is solid. The storytelling is happening but the pacing is a letdown after an introductory issue that moved at a much quicker and exciting clip.

Twitter activity