Archive for Manhattan Projects

Funky Phantoms


Ghosted #4

Jackson Winters and his crew of heist-artists need to steal a ghost out of the notoriously haunted Trask Mansion, and they’ve hit on the idea of getting one of their number possessed by a ghost so they can walk the poor schmuck out of the house and then get him exorcised to hand the spirit over to creepy rich bastard Markus Schrecken. Unfortunately, the guy who gets possessed is Robby Trick, the only member of the crew who can perform an exorcism. Even more unfortunately, one of the reality show videographers, Joe Burns, has already been killed by the ghosts. And even more unfortunately, Anderson Lake, the security consultant, is working against everyone. And worst of all? The sun has set, and all hell is going to break loose.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Excellent, spooky, hard-boiled stuff. Great characterization and dialogue, fun art, and an increasing sense of doom. Just what I need in my horror.


Batgirl #24

Barbara Gordon is in disguise trying to save her boyfriend, but he’s just been shot by Commissioner Gordon. She manages to escape, after beating the snot out of a couple dozen cops and soon learns that Knightfall is behind the increase of super-weapons in the hands of gangs — she lets the gangsters kill each other, then mops up the few who are left. And now Knightfall and much of Batgirl’s rogues gallery are after the Commissioner. How can Barbara stop them all by herself?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story is really keen, the art is gorgeous, and I’d love to see how it all turns out. Of all the mainstream DC books I’m going to miss when I drop them from my pull list in the next week or two, this is probably the one I’m going to miss the most.


The Manhattan Projects #15

We have only one character in this issue: Oppenheimer. Or rather Evil Oppenheimer, Good Oppenheimer, and their armies of alternate Oppenheimer clones, all waging schizophrenic war within the mind of Oppenheimer. The Good Oppenheimers are trying to control Oppenheimer’s mind through innovation, while the Evil Oppenheimers work to defeat them through assimilation. Which side will win?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A weird issue, even by this comic’s standards. But it’s excellent, it’s violent, it’s funny, and it’s going to make the future issues even weirder.

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The Devil’s Head


Daredevil #31

After Foggy Nelson hands out some Daredevil T-shirts to some of his fellow cancer patients in a lesson about spreading courage to others who need it, he accidentally reveals to Matt Murdock that he basically hired Kirsten to take his place at the law firm, which frustrates Matt, since she dumped him not that long ago.

But the bulk of our story happens in the aftermath of a sensational trial elsewhere in NYC. A socialite was charged in the murder of a black teenager in her building, and tensions are high after the jury acquits her. Soon afterwards, the district attorney gives a statement on the courthouse steps and denounces the jury, revealing their names and addresses and encouraging people to murder them. But Matt’s superhuman senses can tell the broadcast was tampered with — the attorney has been framed, and the city primed to explode with violence. Matt suspects the Sons of the Serpent are behind the attack, and he has to try to defuse the riots and protect the jurors and the prosecutor. Though Hank Pym is able to assist with some super-scientific wizardry, it falls to Daredevil to track down the villain responsible for doctoring the broadcast.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I think we can just accept at this point that the art is beautiful and the writing is excellent, right? It’s a nicely “ripped from the headlines” story with plenty of action and tension, a nice guest-starring slot for Hank Pym, a fine resolution, and an intriguing cliffhanger. Definitely worth reading.


The Manhattan Projects #14

President Kennedy has decided to take the Manhattan Projects down once and for all, and he enlists the sadistic and ruthlessly efficient General Westmoreland to do the job. Soon enough, Feynman and Einstein are drugged, General Grove’s battlesuit has been remote controlled, Minister Ustinov loses his robot body, and von Braun and Gagarin are captured while they’re unable to access their equipment and robotics. Even worse, Laika is lost in space somewhere, and Oppenheimer is making his ultimate plans, while his multiple personalities get more and more chaotic. Is there any hope for the bad scientists?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This series probably needed a good shake-up — the scientists had gotten just about everything they wanted, and they needed something new to struggle against. And Westmoreland definitely looks like he’ll be a good antagonist, at least until someone blows his head off.


Wonder Woman #23.1

I wasn’t expecting to get any of DC’s Villains Month comics, but the local shop saved this one for me, since Wonder Woman is still on my pull list. They even got me the fancy 3-D cover, which is very shiny and lenticular.

The Cheetah has been broken out of Belle Reve Prison and is killing off her family. A U.S. Marshal named Mark Shaw (referred to more than once as a “manhunter“) is in pursuit and tries to warn her aunt, Lyta Minerva, who runs a cult dedicated to the Amazon ideal of the Goddess of the Hunt. She soon turns on Shaw so she can hunt him across their compound and reveals how Barbara Minerva became the Cheetah.

Verdict: Ehh, I dunno. The story by John Ostrander and the art by Victor Ibanez are just fine, but it’s ultimately another dumb crossover and yet another of the all-villains month events that DC does every few years. The comic is a good read, and it’s interesting, but is it something that has a lot of re-read value? Not really.

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Can you stand another article on the ongoing trainwreck at DC Comics? Go read this.
  • Fangoria offers their picks for the top evil clowns.
  • This article on the rotten conditions being inflicted on university adjunct instructors is incredibly depressing, but you should read it anyway.
  • This probably won’t kill off Whole Foods — but it will at least kill off people using the word “Namaste.”
  • Ever wanted to see the point of view of an eagle in flight? Watch this video.

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Little Green Man


The Manhattan Projects #12

Harry Daghlian knows that Enrico Fermi is an alien. Fermi doesn’t like hearing about that at all. So he transforms into his “drone” form — a large insectile monstrosity — tears Daghlian to pieces, and pitches him into space. Then he heads back to the moonbase to tear stuff up and ruin everything for the Projects. Can Feynman, Oppenheimer, Groves, Einstein, von Braun, Gagarin, and Laika save the day? Or is bad science done for good?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Fermi has been my favorite character in this series for a while, and it’s great to see him cut loose. It’s also interesting to see some of the plots that have gone on behind the scenes and right under our noses. Grand stuff — hope you’re reading it.


Batgirl #21

Barbara Gordon is going through angst city over the supposed death of her brother, but she heads off to capture the Ventriloquist and rescue her hostage as a little shock therapy. As seems to be the theme for all of Batgirl’s adventures, she spends most of the issue getting knocked around — by the new Ventriloquist’s telekinetically-controlled puppet and her dead parents — before she finally grabs her victory.

Verdict: Thumbs down. Mostly because I’m tired of seeing Batgirl get stomped on every issue. Barbara just isn’t that good at crimefighting. It’s a minor miracle that Batman hasn’t either ordered her to hang up the cape or started her on some sort of serious training regimen to keep her from getting killed by the next random jaywalker to cross her path…

Today’s Cool Links:

  • No one likes the Superman-Wonder Woman romance. And the Superman-Lois Lane romance is spotlighted and popular in “Man of Steel.” So of course, DC Comics — ever stupid — wants to do a new comic entirely devoted to the stupid Superman-Wonder Woman romance. I’ll retire to Bedlam.
  • And now Spider-Man has a brand-new long-lost sister. Mark Waid and James Robinson, this is stupid stuff.
  • You owe it to yourself to learn from the sad tales in the Sad Cat Diary and the Sad Dog Diary.

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Arrows and Laser Guns


Young Avengers #4

Hulkling, Wiccan, Miss America, and Kid Loki have all been captured by Mother, an interdimensional, mind-controlling, reality-warping parasite accidentally summoned by Wiccan. Luckily, Hawkeye and Noh-Varr show up to save the day. And save the day they do, in entirely spectacular fashion — but they immediately run into problems when Noh-Varr’s long-deceased parents show up, like everyone else’s parents, all under Mother’s control. In the rush to escape, Loki sows some doubt in Hulkling’s mind that Wiccan’s reality-warping powers may be why he’s in love with him. Loki also points out that they have two possible solutions to the problem: either Loki gets Wiccan’s powers for ten minutes, or Wiccan has to die.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great to finally see the entire group together. Noh-Varr really does shine here — his page of effortless ass-whoopin’, followed by the amazing “Come with me if you want to be awesome” line, are just phenomenal, and we get some great scenes with Kate Bishop, too. Kid Loki is grand fun as well. Excellent action, suspense, characterization, and art. I’m getting lots of enjoyment from this series so far.


The Manhattan Projects #11

I picked up the first two trade paperbacks of this series and really enjoyed ’em. So I’m going to try the single issues from here on out.

Here’s the general pitch: We go back to 1940s Los Alamos, full of scientific geniuses, we stuff ’em full of weird science lunacy, and we watch them take over the world. We have comic versions of real people, like Einstein, Oppenheimer, Richard Feynman, Enrico Fermi, Wernher von Braun, Gen. Leslie Groves, Yuri Gagarin, Laika, FDR, et cetera… and for the most part, they’re all psychotics. Think of it as “Atomic Robo” with a lot more murderous sociopathy.

This issue focuses on Harry Daghlian, a physicist who, in the real world, accidentally exposed himself to plutonium in 1945 and died of radiation poisoning 25 days later. In the comic, however, Daghlian’s radiation exposure merely turned him into a dangerously radioactive skeleton in a containment suit. Harry feels isolated at the Projects — he’s a core member of the leadership team, but everyone is afraid of him because he’s so blasted dangerous. His only real friend is Enrico Fermi, a guy who is similarly mistrusted because he’s not really human.

Alongside the character focus on Harry, we also learn that, while the scientists have won and basically control the world, they’re now having to deal with the specifics of how to control the world. Dr. Oppenheimer shares some of his plans for humanity’s future — travel to Mars, increasing human lifespan, improving the planet’s energy situation — oh, and of course, he’s got his own secret, more deadly plans, as well…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Really wonderful characterization in this one — Daghlian and Fermi have been, for the most part, cyphers, so it’s nice to see more of their backgrounds. If you haven’t read this series before, I would advise you to read the first couple of trades, just to get caught up on the characters, their secrets, and the backstory. I really do see this series as the bizarro version of Atomic Robo — they’re both high-concept pulp sci-fi character studies, they’re both great fun to read, but “Manhattan Projects” definitely gives you more of the bad crazy, contrasting with Atomic Robo’s good crazy.

If I’ve got to thumbs any portion of this down, it’s got to be the covers. All of the covers look like that. I’m sure they’re very nice examples of fine graphic design… But don’t try to tell me these completely abstract covers do much to sell the comics, a’ight? This series would be better served by covers that give some sort of hint about the stories and characters inside…

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