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Disclaimer: I am not an expert in either science or World War II history; all of the information I will be using in this column is either easily found on the internet or is purely my opinion.
This month, writer Jonathan Hickman joins us to talk about the cross-pollination of his ideas across various publishers.
If you’ve been granted security clearance, read on for your briefing.
This month’s installment is all about when the best laid plans of mice, men, aliens and AI fall apart.
In a really odd parallel, this issue drops the same day as “New Avengers” #1 from Hickman and Steve Epting, and both are centered around a group of men who call themselves the Illuminati. The MP Illuminati is a group of world leaders who attempt to steer the world in the way they see fit. They turn the FDR AI on the scientists, hoping to eliminate them, while taking some of their technology. The group is made up of President Truman and the FDR AI, as well as characters we can attempt to identify by their garb.
There is the man sitting on a throne of money in a luchador mask, presumably from Latin America. There is an Egyptian named Nebehu, speaking in hieroglyphics, alongside a mysterious man in a hood (more on him later). The final member looks almost Samoan, with a dartboard-esque pattern tattooed on his stomach.
The most easily Google-able result for the spelling used in the comic is in the title of a Deathmarch song, “The Rise of Nehebu-Kau.” Maybe one of the creators is really into death metal?
Last month, we saw how Pitarra had included a bunch of his friends as soldiers, including the above gentlemen, artist of the “Game of Thrones” comics, Tommy Patterson. Well, sorry Tommy – this issue didn’t go so well for you.
This is simply a more direct version of the first quote, making clear that these scientists would be no one’s puppets.
Yuri Gagarin and Laika occupy an odd place in this story. The scientists, as well as Groves, don’t really concern themselves with who is “right” or “good” – they simply do what needs to be done, consequences schmonsequences.
But the cosmonauts consider themselves to be the heroes of this story, and act in ways they consider to be moral, or at least noble. This is a trait that seems destined to get them in trouble in the future, and one that will no doubt cause some friction.
The battle with the FDR AI takes up most of this issue, and while it claims no major casualties (no offense, Mr. Patterson), it beats up von Braun pretty well. The man with the robotic arm is set to become the man with quite a few robotic parts.
The final quote is the perfect summation of von Braun’s actions in this issue:
“What did I call the place beyond pain, beyond loss, and beyond sacrifice? Commitment” – Wernher von Braun
Pitarra and Hickman are sure to not show too much of the last member of the Illuminati, setting up a mystery that will, hopefully, pay off down the road. Due to the dress, he could be a druid. The druids were primarily a British concern, geographically, so who would be a British, bald man who might have some role in ruling the world?
2. Feynman and Groves left standing
Of the core American-side members of the Manhattan Projects, only Feynman and Groves are, structurally speaking, normal human beings from Earth without any severe modifications. Daghlian is irradiated, Fermi is an alien, Oppenheimer eats people, Einstein is from a parallel Earth, and von Braun is more machine than man after this issue.
Will this bond of “normalcy” lead to them having a more intense bond? Feynman is the narrator of this story, in a certain manner, and yet his role has been quite limited yet. Is he being set up, through his association with Groves, to be the best possible “face” of the Projects?
3. Not really FDR?
Einstein hints at it here, probably just as an insult to get the goat of the FDR AI, but is it possible that the AI was all a trick? Could someone else, perhaps our druid friend, really be controlling the AI? He is the one who calls him “Mister Omnipresident” earlier in the issue, he is sitting next to him, and here, he is using British slang. Could things not be as they appear?
4. Moon Babies on the Horizon
There is no way I can do this story justice, but Pitarra, when guesting on the Hour Cosmic, was talking about a character he wants to bring into “The Manhattan Projects.” The discussion happens in the first 20 minutes of the show, so take a listen:
5. No flashbacks
This is the first issue to take place entirely in the present since the series began. The now iconic red/blue flashback sequences are nowhere to be found. This could simply be because this is a big moment, and needed an entire issue to fully show the battle between the Illuminati and the scientists.
Or could this have some other significance? Has the story been sufficiently built up so that the past is no longer necessary?
Brian: This issue is being released the same day as “New Avengers” #1, and it is interesting to look at the way that, to my eye, “The Manhattan Projects” has informed your two ongoings at Marvel. The first issue of “Avengers” featured a piece of design that looked plucked right off the cover to a future “Manhattan Projects” issue, and “New Avengers” deals with the Illuminati, a concept echoed in tone and title in “The Manhattan Projects.”
Obviously, all of these books come from you, and so will have certain similarities just because of their source. Without giving away any state secrets, how has “The Manhattan Projects” informed your work at Marvel?
Jonathan Hickman: I think the things kind of feed of of each other. Creatively, it’s really important to do both Marvel and Image stuff. I feel like they offer some kind of creative balance.
I’m trying to remember the order of when these things were developed, because it certainly wasn’t in the chronological order in which they have been released.
The concept for “New Avengers” originated around the time I was doing “Secret Warriors” at Marvel. Very early on. Then “Manhattan Projects,” then “SHIELD,” then adding the Illuminati to the “New Avengers” ‘concept’ (and thereby making it an Avengers book).
Anyway, I guess the answer is it’s all rather incestuous. Cousin-fucking and what not.
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You can purchase “The Manhattan Projects” at fine comic book stores everywhere, or digitally here.
See you next month!