The last couple issues of The Manhattan Projects have been, as Marty McFly would say, heavy. With issue #11, Jonathan Hickman takes a break from the big events to focus on a constant character since the series began, Harry Daghlian, the skull in the radiation suit. Here’s the official description from Image:
Following the dramatic events of The LOGIC REVOLUTION, what will the Science Lords of the Manhattan Projects do with an Earth they now completely control? NOTHING GOOD.
It’s odd that Hickman has held off so long in letting us get to know Daghlian and his friend, Enrico Fermi. According to the narration, everyone likes Daghlian, and Hickman backs that statement up brilliantly, as Daghlian is easily the most likable character in the series so far. If there’s one thing the recently-nominated-for-an-Eisner Manhattan Projects needs, it’s a likeable character (if there are two things, the second is CliffsNotes). The best scene of the issue is right at the very beginning. Prompted by Daghlian’s comment that he misses being able to eat, Fermi goes on a rant about the state of the Projects, their loss of focus, and his own frustrating need to consume food. Daghlian’s response? “I just wanted some ice cream.” In the midst of Daghlian’s backstory and his interaction with Fermi, Hickman manages to drop some simultaneously amusing, cryptic, and foreboding hints about the series’ direction in upcoming issues.
Nick Pitarra‘s art, strong from the series’ debut, has nonetheless improved as time has passed. The linework has grown more confidant, the characters more consistent. One great page of this issue shows Daghlian’s transformation as he is irradiated. The layout hints at the rays of energy piercing his body, while each panel peals away another layer, showing his muscles, his organs, his bones. There are also a couple good visual jokes this issue, but it’s the very first page that earns Pitarra the Unleash the Fanboy Award for Most Delicious-Looking Ice Cream Sundae in a Comic Book Ever (The U.t.F.A.f.M.D.L.I.C.S.i.a.C.B.E.) Congratulations, Nick!
The Manhattan Projects has always been full of dark humor, but issue eleven has likable characters, cheerful jokes, and heart-warming moments surpassing everything we’ve seen thus far. Now I’m really scared what Jonathan Hickman will do next.
Zac Boone really wants ice cream now. Follow him on twitter (but bring him a double scoop waffle cone of mint chocolate chip first.)