MANHATTAN PROJECTS #13 opens with a funeral; ostensibly the last time the whole team would be together in the same place (albeit with one of them in the ground). Fragmentation is the next trajectory, with the team venturing off to pursue things alone or in pairs.
The issue is titled "Piece By Piece," and it's reflected in every layer of the issue. The team itself splits off into solitary endeavors -- even Laika the dog embarks on a course past Jupiter -- and certain members of the team start splitting apart a former colleague. Everything is dissected, so we can learn from it.
I am charmed, endlessly, by Nick Pitarra's panel composition. The tiniest of details are just right, with scientific precision -- the cake and lemonade at a traitor's funeral, Fermi's headstone itself, Yuri's briefs under the spacesuit -- and the whimsical quality of his lines has the effect of making it easy to forget that most of the characters in MANHATTAN PROJECTS are violent psychopaths, or worse. I am fascinated by the fact that I keep cracking a smile while reading this book, even though by all accounts, most of the cast should be wholly unlikeable (Daghlian and Laika excepted).
Hickman appears to be playing the long game with this Oppenheimer vector, but it's one worth paying attention to. The more individuals he consumes, the closer he comes to the pervasive notion of "the infinite," and it makes him both more fascinating and more terrifying.
Fragmentation, even when used well as a story device, has its cost: some members of the group are simply more interesting than others, and splitting everyone apart means that for every delightfully disturbing Oppenheimer moment, we also have a slower-paced look at the General. From this dissection, I've learned that the men of war in this book are less interesting than the men of science, and I'm hoping that Oppenheimer gets his sinister way.
Ten years into the program, and thirteen issues into the series, MANHATTAN PROJECTS is still one of the single most interesting titles in print right now. It's operating in an entirely different sphere from most other comics, and while that means unfamiliar territory for some, it's worth exploring. Mad science, bad science, clever writing, imaginative art. After a big emotional build in issue #11 and its fallout in #12, we start anew with more seedlings of tension to come. And with a great many dissected aliens.