Thursday, February 7, 2013

365 Comics...38: Think Tank #5 (2013)

Matt Hawkins is a smart guy, far smarter than I.  Smart and well read.  He reads books about science and technology and does extracurricular research and all those wondrous things that expand his brain.  Me, I read a lot of comics.

Thankfully, smart guys like Matt Hawkins write comics as well, comics that take advantage of their interest in science and technology to create a work of disarmingly fun fiction that dabbles perilously in real world logistics.   Also thankfully, writers like Matt Hawkins take the time to educate their audience on the "real world" that isn't as skewed in the story as one might think (or hope) through creative use of backmatter pages.

Think Tank is the book that Matt Hawkins has created, and it's a surprisingly enjoyable trip into the world of military-applied science, centered around a hyper-intelligent character who can also be a self-absorbed, sexist asshole.  He's also got a stunted maturity despite (or because of) his intelligence and yet is charming, relatable and watchable.  Dr. David Lauren is a compelling character, and the shocking start to this second series makes him doubly so.

The first arc of Think Tank was originally intended as a stand-alone, and I don't know if it was sales or critics or the publisher or just Hawkins himself that inspired it, but it's now ongoing.  Where we ended a few months ago, David had managed to extract himself (and his girlfriend) from the DARPA facility where he worked/lived/was practically a hostage and retire away from it all.  Also, we learned that Mirra, his girlfriend, was actually a working for his Military boss, so things we know weren't going to work out permanently.

This issue starts with David back in the bullpen of his DARPA agency, and diving full bore into genetic weaponry with a sociopathic fervor.  Something most definitely has changed in him.

The projects and ideas behind the projects David is now working on are explored in "Science Class", Hawkin's blog-like back pages where he strips down the salient story aspects into bite-sized consumable nuggets, with links to turn to if you want some more.  It's rather brilliant how Hawkins manages to take this I'm sure overwhelming amount of knowledge and craft it into usable chunklets with his stories.  Think Tank has a lot of science backing, but it's truly a character-driven story.  As such this issue's surprise opening twist makes it the best yet, leading to both meaty science factoids and hearty character stuff.

I quite like this book, and always feel amply rewarded with every issue.  The cover warning - "Danger: Reading this book will make you smarter" isn't just a bold proclamation, but the truth (for most of us anyway).  Hawkins' partner, Rahsan Ekedal quickly found his own unique illustrative voice early in this series, and has been knocking it out with great character physicality and design ever since.  The only thing I don't like about the book: the way Ekedal draws David's facial scruff. It just irks me.

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