Are you reading Jonathan Hickman’s The Manhattan Projects?
If not, you really should. It’s published by Image and is the secret history of the US’s World War II atomic bomb programme, and what came after it, complete with added transdimensional travel, cannibalism, science fiction and multiple personalities. It’s huge fun, a clever, bleak parody of the paranoia of the ‘50s and ‘60s.
However, it doesn’t have anywhere near enough punching and dinosaurs.
Enter Chronos Commandos, stage left, firing an automatic weapon at a T-Rex whilst punching a cyber nazi who is, odds are, on fire.
For about the first ten pages, Marvel UK veteran Stuart Jennett’s story feels a little too familiar. The Sarge is a cigar chomping badass, who after an early catastrophe, must rebuild his unit from the few men remaining. They include an amiable nerd and a trooper with anger issues whilst the Nazis they face are monolithic sadists, led by the huge, evil Schwarzeneggerian Captain Richter. So far, so familiar.
Then about 30 pages in, you start to get just what Jennett’s doing and it’s brilliantly executed. This is the sort of full tilt science fiction action adventure that 2000 AD excels at and Jennett’s very good at it. However, what makes the book fly is how well thought out it is.
The temporal mechanics are fun, different and consistent, the action and jokes both come thick and fast and Jennett constantly hints at a bigger picture. The past is not quite what anyone thinks it is, and even Project Watchmaker, the time travel program, is just part of a bigger picture. This is the violent, bitey tip of a very well thought out, large scale story and it’s as much fun to look at Jennett’s world building as it is to read the story itself.
Also, Jennett’s very good at sudden, horrific violence. The dinosaurs here are never window dressing and always horrifyingly dangerous. The death toll is high, very few people die easily and the danger level never drops from ‘Total’. That cleverly raises the stakes for both sides, and the ending in particular is a wonderfully staged, skin of the teeth fight in two time zones at once.
It should also be noted Jennett is an insanely talented one man band. The scripting here is top notch and the art is fantastic. There’s hints of the muscularity of Simon Bisley’s work but it’s tempered with an understanding of anatomy and a lightness of touch that means the action scenes float like a butterfly and hit like an angry T-Rex. Everything here works, nothing is as simple as it first appears and the book is an absolute pleasure to read.
Two fisted pulp adventure with a brain and a heart, this is hopefully the first of many trips with Project Watchmaker.
Thanks to TravellingMan.com for the review copy and for being a nice place, generally.