Typically, it’s the writer that draws me to a comic book. I’m a writer myself, and I tend to talk more about the writing in my reviews, so it tends to be writers I will follow from title to title. In the case of Think Tank, however, it was the artist that brought me to this first issue. Rahsan Ekedal blew me away with his stellar work on last year’s cracking horror miniseries Echoes, and I’ve subsequently been following him on Twitter, via which I’ve heard a lot about the progress of his new project, Think Tank. When I heard that it was finally due for release this week, I snatched it up in an instant, in spite of not knowing anything of the plot beyond what the title suggested.
Once again, Ekedal doesn’t disappoint. Interestingly, it manages to be both totally like his excellent work on Echoes, yet not like it at all. If you liked his art for Echoes, odds are you’ll like this too. His lush, textured grayscales, skillful scene framing and mastery of subtle emotions in his characters’ facial expressions are carried over from that superlative previous work. The delicately crafted lettering of Troy Peteri also returns from Echoes to add consistency – a rare example of me instantly recognising the work of a letterer. But as this is a totally different genre, a largely different approach is required. Echoes was rougher, murkier, reflecting its protagonist’s increasingly fractured psyche. Here, we have bold, clean lines, and the encroaching shade of creepy crawlspaces replaced by the clinical brightness of science labs.
Interestingly for a comic set largely within a prison-like structure, the layouts are also much less claustrophobic, perhaps once again reflecting the mental state of the protagonist. While Echoes‘ Brian Cohn found his world closing in around him, Think Tank‘s David Loren’s mind is expansive, a world of endless possibility. And so we have images bursting out of their panels, and busy, bustling layouts. There’s also a few comedic beats in here – including a standout sequence involving a highly inventive college revenge prank – which Ekedal nails. With Think Tank #1, Rahsan Ekedal adds versatility to his growing list of atributes.
Not that the writing is anything to sniff at, either. Matt Hawkins does a good job establishing this world, apparently not too far removed from reality, of teams of scientists developing military wishlists of impossible gadgets and ever-more-efficient weaponry. It’s a clever balance of having one foot in a future of mind-bending tech and the other in a very much recognisable present, with the anchor making it all feel plausible the well-realised protagonist, Dr. David Loren. Divorced from the “nerdy scientist” stereotype, Loren makes for a cool leading man, with snappy dialogue and some nifty tricks up his sleeve. He’s also conflicted about the moral implications of creating weapons that are then used to kill people: he considers himself a “mass murderer”. It should be interesting to see this further explored in future issues, to see if there was any particular inciting incident that sparked this moral awakening.
It seems scientific geniuses are becoming the new badasses de jour these days, with The Manhattan Projects centring around an Expendables-like all-star team of super-scientists, and even the Iron Man films (and, you could argue, the more Oscorp-focused Amazing Spider-Man reboot) bringing “science can be cool, kids!” into the mainstream. If there’s any downside to Think Tank, it could be that it stands somewhat in the shadow of The Manhattan Projects. They have different aims, with Think Tank revolving around making amazing future science feel tangible and relatable, while The Manhattan Projects takes the idea to bonkers, high-concept extremes. But the latter manages to be that little bit more fun and exhilerating as a reading experience. However, there’s no shame in being a notch below Jonathan Hickman producing quite possibly his best work, and Matt Hawkins has admirably demonstrated how there’s room for more than one badass science book on Image’s publishing slate.
Image has been bombarding us with cracking new titles this year, and amidst all the high-profile debuts it might be easy to overlook Think Tank. That would be a mistake. Give Think Tank #1 a try, and you’ll be treated to a cleverly-written book with gorgeous art from Rahsan Ekedal. It gets my recommendation!
Think Tank #1 is on-sale now from all good comic stores.