Friday, January 18, 2013

Think Tank

Written by Matt Hawkins
Art by Rahsan Ekedal

            At the top of this collection of the first four issues of Think Tank is the tagline “DANGER: Reading this book will make you smarter”.  As far as big promises and intriguing statements go, that fits both perfectly.  And while some books couldn’t handle that, Think Tank manages to live up to it.
            David Loren fits the bill of insufferable genius.  He’s the kind of person that skips every day of a class, and then takes the test and passes it.  His current job as a scientist in DARPA’s think tank (which he got chosen for at 14) is cozy enough, but he’s also starting to get nightmares of the death and destruction that he’s causing.  So he breaks out of it.
            The first two issues of this series manage to set the scene perfectly.  David Loren is the kind of person you both love and hate at the same time.  You hate him because he’s a jerk and he constantly uses and abuses his military superiors and his fellow scientists.  You love him for much the same reason.  He’s clever, smirking as he manages to escape the base and uses his mind reading technology to pick up girls.  If he was a real person, I would absolutely hate him.  As a comic character, I just want to see what he does next, what mischief he causes.  And he does have the soul of a good person.  We see examples of the military technology, his own fears of what it could do.  This isn’t a violent book throughout,  which makes Ekedal’s black-and-white art during these segments that much more shocking, and manages to raise big questions about the uses of military technology.
            It’s the latter two issues that really hooked me, though.  I love elaborate plans, like heists or, in this case, a break-out.  It has to work, it has to be exciting, and it has to be like the hero has planned it out to a T but anything could go wrong.  Everything works here.  Every piece of technology we’ve seen gets used, every Chekhov’s gun that’s been loaded gets fired.  You have to keep reading just to find out what the next part of the plan is, what insane thing he’s going to do next.  It never feels like he wins because the guards are being stupid, he just wins because he’s smarter than they are.  And then at the very last moment, it hits you with a twist that changes everything.  I can’t wait for the next issue to see where it goes.
            The special features are a cover gallery (sigh) and, in something I’ve never seen before, Hawkins citing all the technology.  It separates the fact from the fiction, and the incredible part is that far less of it is fiction than I initially thought.  There’s pictures of everything from its showing in the book, Hawkins talks about the real-world applications next to what he thought of what it could do for the story, and he even puts in websites to go to so you can learn more.  It’s extensive and immediately became a feature I want to see in other comics.
            Think Tank is clever, exciting, and, naturally, intelligent.  It only dashes on science fiction compared to its realistic premise and technology, and brings up fascinating questions about the real scientists and military that drives the book.

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