After taking a break for a few months, writer Hickman and artist Pitarra are back with their series, The Manhattan Projects. The series had been a monthly comic since 2012 so this break definitely shook things up for fans of the series. Since the last issue, issue #25, a lot has changed considering the original plan was to continue the series with issue #26 after the hiatus, but now it’s being considered a relaunch and starting with issue #1.
So under the new arc “The Sun Beyond the Stars,” is the return of The Manhattan Projects good?
The Manhattan Projects #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
Hickman announced at the end of last year that the series would take a breather and come back with some changes to the formatting and story style. This new series would emphasize traditional story arcs and focus on detailed anecdotes of individual characters. I personally have never read Manhattan Projects so I can’t compare it to its previous work, but I can relay my initial impressions of this first issue under the new arc.
The story begins with some aliens in what appears to be some sketchy black market-deal environment. Apparently they’ve been harvesting planets for their core and translating it into some inorganic organism for destruction. There’s a bit of action when the deal goes south and it’s, for me, an odd introduction because it’s certainly not what I came into the issue expecting. It definitely bears a more serious tone and lacks an comedic undertones and, upon finishing the issue, has nothing to do with the second half of the comic, or at least from what we can tell so far.
The second half however fared much better. It focuses on the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin after accidently landing himself within space jail for not bearing appropriate papers at a landing dock for spacecraft. Within prison he makes friends with fellow inmate Garru who’s a colorful (not literally, but I guess technically it still applies) and entertaining alien who shares his criminal anecdote. This is certainly where the comic picks up and pulls you in.
Yuri then goes through a trial process and later finds himself in a bar with the judge himself. It’s there that he spots the one thing that he’s been attempting to find in space—his dog, Laika. Laika is a Russian space dog that was sent into orbit when the space race was still young. In reality, Laika died during the expedition, but in this case the two cosmonauts have some sort of relationship and Laika is now bipedal and can speak.
I found the end quite charming and the comic as a whole grew on me throughout the issue. It’s just too bad there was that monkey wrench in the introduction that threw me off. The art is jovial and matches the comedic tone and Hickman includes evidence of his wit throughout the second half of the issue. It had a sci-fi light-hearted ridiculousness that’s similar to God Hates Astronauts, but with less farce and vulgarity. It’s also a great read if you enjoy comedic historical adaptations.
Is It Good?
Hickman writes quality characters with wit and charm, but they’re only made present halfway through the issue. While I’m sure the introduction is necessary and essential to this storyline, it may throw new readers off and lose their attention before Hickman can switch on the humor. It’s an appealing first issue after the series’ break, but hopefully next month he can grab our attention sooner in the issue.