Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Nick Pitarra
Image Comics, 2012-2015
HOW DOES THE MONGOOSE entice the cobra? Should the cobra not be scared out of its wits and eager to turn away? Is it one of those, hi I’m a lovely black widow thing or the shrinking violet flytrap? Whatever, this comic, THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS, gave me a creepy feeling right off. I encountered it first in the paperback, collecting issues 1–5, and by the end, or beginning of what comes next, I have to wonder if I read it like it existed already or if it composed itself as I read it and my version is unique and untold elsewhere, from which possibly for relief after such a creative effort, I found myself at the end staring with disturbing fascination at the end-pages of the cover in grey and white diagonal stripes shaping and reshaping the light and shadows of the day like a drama on a stage with Euclid in the background droning on in axiomatic parallelisms and nervous creatures darting about. The back cover says SCIENCE BAD—whoever they are, these scientists in this book with a plural “projects” in their name, so whoever they are can be infinitely busy with pluralisms that I think do not really exist, yet I can’t be sure about that can I? Especially when I read today, too, that Daniel Ellsberg has a new book explaining how secrets lie within secrets in layers, and one layer might be completely invisible to the next layer, so those poor benighted folks, being most of us, do not know there even exists some further secret layer that has not been exposed in the popular press or literary imagination.
Maybe aliens did come down and talk to us, and then bad aliens came, and one crazy scientist on the team killed it, and they got mad, and then we, meaning these scientists in the plural ‘s’ projects had to do something about it. Maybe it happened that way or is happening that way, or maybe that is just how it happened when I read it. Check your copy.
Draining the mind of writer Jonathan Hickman on this story, if he wrote it and it was not my evil twin, is best left unplumbed. Before the story leaps into madness on cue, immediately before that, a handshake. The innocence is monstrous. I am not fooled.
I remember only three pages into the story, I sat fixed on this full-page handshake. The heavy-lined drawing style of Nick Pitarra may have a jolly glow and the figure is smiling, the fake writer on the other side is saying, “Welcome to the Manhattan Projects,” plural, but I get it, I saw the realistic rendering of a 50-calibre machine gun on the previous page, no doubt to be used, and a kind of mortar shell on the desk among other weapons stuffed into the office, and on top of the bookshelf what looks suspiciously like Hogun the Grim’s battle mace. Oh, I get it. I know this art. Some shadowed memory stirs. Remember the story that scared the daylights out of you as a kid, the guy at home hears a tick-tock and all along under the floorboards—horrible. This is the artist who takes you there, the mongoose. Looks like a cartoon, feels like a cartoon. Then, you are dinner.
Read past this point at the famous handshake, if you dare. That’s all the warning you get.