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Monday, October 20, 2014

Graphic novel about famous physicists, sentient origami, and Robert Oppenheimer's brain-eating twin brother.

Hickman, Jonathan; Pitarra, Nick (2012)  The Manhattan Projects:  One.  Berkeley: Image

I have been struggling with whether I should even review this graphic novel.  On the one hand, it is a very clever and funny bit of speculative fiction where the good guys are Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman and the bad buys are an American General who seems cribbed from the insane military leader in Dr. Strangelove, and alternate dimensional clones of Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer's evil twin.  It has lines like, "We're even having to check every ream of paper that's delivered to critical government offices after last month's sentient origami incident."
On the other hand, it is graphically violent, blurs the line between violence and mysticism, and seems to substitute sarcasm and jaw-clenched determination for any kind of hope.  This book is certainly not for anyone but high school students who have read enough other books (and graphic novels) that they can take this one in stride.  Although there is some skewed history of science here, the science itself is obscure and questionable, so I doubt it would be useful for using as a text in a science, history, or literature.  And I cannot guarantee that if you put it in a classroom or school library it will not be challenged by a parent.
But it is clever, and it is funny, and it would take a really close reading by a parent to find that which it truly troubling about the book.  And because I enjoyed it on some level, I feel bound to mention that some high school students will likely love this series, and talking them to about it could give a teacher the opportunity to engage students in some questions of worldview and morality and the value of hope.
Bottom line, you need to read this one first -- and I might recommend paging through it in a bookstore before buying it to see if it is your cup of tea. 

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