Written by Jim Ottaviani
Art by Various Artists
Published by G.T. Labs; $19.95 USD

For a science and history buff, picking up Fallout: J. Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard and The Political Science of the Atomic Bomb was a no-brainer. Still, I was stunned not only by the thoroughness of Ottaviani’s research, but also the humanity, power and contradictory natures of the Manhattan Project scientists. This is a book about the glory of science, and how the good intentions of science can be appropriated and abused to destructive, and self-destructive ends.

Leo Szilard, an eccentric physicist, has escaped Nazi Germany literally one day ahead of the Gestapo to England. Fearful of the growing Nazi threat, and inspired by research in atomic theory, Szilard convinces Albert Einstein to write a letter to Roosevelt that will result in the creation of the most infamous research and development team in history. From there, we see the progress of the Manhattan Project team under Oppenheimer, who remains pragmatic until his own crisis of conscience ultimately costs him everything.

Ottaviani’s meticulous research into the history of Manhattan project and its architects is on par with Alan Moore’s work in FROM HELL. The fact that he presents the scientists using their own words, and accurately portrays what little historical documents were not able to give him, is astonishing. Ottaviani’s passion for the work shines through as he guides us through the conflicts between the idealistic Szilard, the reserved and pragmatic Oppenheimer, the patriotic but paranoid Edward Teller (yes, that Edward Teller), and the arrogant and quirky Fermi. The conversations between them, both real and created, are powerful, and surprisingly relevant to a modern dialogue on weapons of mass destruction.

All of the contributing artists to this novel display their mastery of craft, but there are two artists in this work whom deserve special mention. The first is Janine Johnston, whom early in the book captures Einstein’s relaxed humor, capacity for reflection, and his inner conflict in deciding to assist Szilard. Her depictions of Depression-Era London and Leo Szilard, and the visions of Trinity atomic bomb test are simply stunning. Also of note is Jeff (Interman) Parker’s representation of the Project’s work in Los Alamos. He vividly contrasts the desolate and bleak facility with the spirited yet clearly frustrated scientists within.

Fallout is a vision. Part cautionary warning about the naiveté of those on the frontiers of science, part testimonial to the brilliance and goodwill of those very same pioneers. This is a masterful achievement of comics crafting and well worth your investment. Grade: 4.5/5

-- Michael Paciocco

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