Category Archives: Think Tank
By: Benjamin Cook
“Genius and insanity are measured in degrees of success.”
I guess it started when I was just a little kid listening to war stories from my grandfather, tales of a battle against an evil, murderous tyrant who had decided, for whatever ridiculous reason, that he would eradicate a small, very specific group of mostly-average people from the face of the earth – and more to the point, that he was worshiped for it. It was those stories that got me to wondering what the difference was between being really smart and just being crazy. After over a decade of study, I’ve come to the conclusion that Einstein was right; it’s all a matter of success.
Consider for a moment: as you sit there, reading this badly-written rant that’s trying so hard to be a comic review, there are millions of invisible, intangible signals wafting around and through you, carrying information across thousands of miles from ground, ocean and orbit to deliver your lazy Sunday afternoon perusal. While you read this, you are probably seated in a high-rise apartment, or house, or plane, or cruise ship, or any of the other unbelievable technological marvels we take for granted. You’re also reading it from a smartphone, or tablet, or laptop, or another of those machines we just treat like the most normal thing in the bloody world. And by the time you’re finished this article, another invention will just be getting its patent.
Pretty remarkable, right?
What’s remarkable to me is not the product, but the producer. When I see a smartphone or a flat screen TV, all I can think is, someone invented this?!
We started less than ten thousand years ago with a badly-chiseled wheel and a rudimentary language based on a combination of grunts and violent outbursts, and now we stand here in the majesty of our own brilliance, finally understanding our true potential for the first time… over and over again. We are beginning to comprehend that we are, each and every one of us, a genius searching for our muse. Given time and effort, we might propel our civilization to the next step in its evolution like cuneiform, aqueducts, the steam engine and the Internet have done before.
But then there’s the other side of it, isn’t there?
It seems we’re not just good at thinking, we’re also pretty pro at killing. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that nearly every technology we currently use was originally designed for military use – from the axe right down to the World Wide Web.
That’s right: ever heard of something called DARPAnet?
It was the first network of interconnected computers systems that was capable of sending packets of information over long distances. It was started by the US Military, most notably a group known as DARPA – hence the name (obviously, they leave the geniuses out of the naming process).
DARPA stands for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – essentially, they are the research and development arm of the Military-Industrial Complex. They’re the ones responsible for the moon landing, GPS, predator drones, psy-ops, MK Ultra, suicide pills … shall I go on?
Sadly, they’re not alone: on the face of it, they’re not much different from the R&D groups involved with the Soviets, or the Manhattan Project, or even Nazi Germany. The Spanish Inquisition had a group of their own, a small sect of religious fanatics who spent all their time finding out new ways to torture a confession out of somebody – even wrote a book called the Malus Maleficarum, putting it all out in depraved detail. Like I said, we’re just as good at killing as we are at thinking … which generally makes things a little blurry from a moral standpoint.
So who determines what’s genius and what’s insane?
The story’s pretty simple to start: brilliant young man – his name’s David Loren – catches the attention of the military. They make him an offer no sixteen-year-old could refuse, and now, six years later, Dr. Loren lives in an ultra-secure facility making death toys for the brass.
Sounds a lot like Iron Man, I know – but there’s something to this story that can’t be found in the standard super-science comic: the undertone.
Yes, there’s cool ray gun devices and drones and powersuits, but the story isn’t about some brilliant dude with unlimited resources. This isn’t Reed Richards or Hank Pym – hell, this isn’t even Batman. David Loren is a guy we all went to high school with: too smart for his own good and well aware of it, a loudmouth social handicap who’s capable of acing three tests at the same time but can’t seem to understand why his calculus teacher doesn’t appreciate having their math corrected during class. This all-star douche’s lab assistant, a guy known as Mani, is friendly and brutally honest – and also like that oh-so-friendly savant from high school, Mani is David’s only friend.
But underneath the surface of dominating egos and military politics, there’s just a young man who’s determined to leave a legacy – one that he determines, not the establishment he’s bound to. He, unlike the idealistic minds of earlier comics, understands the ramifications of his own genius. He’s seen the death and destruction caused by his inventions … and he wants out.
This isn’t just building mechs and shooting lasers, either. Everything in this comic is heavily researched by Hawkins, which is usually outlined in the final pages of the comic – something he calls “Science Class”, where he breaks down all the brilliant stuff he’s tossed at you for twenty-something pages and shows how real it could be … or how real it already is.
Also, there is a certain technology that Think Tank focuses on in every issue which I find fascinating: non-lethal weaponry. Hawkins leaves the excessive explosions and city-wide destruction to other writers. David’s inventions are intended to leave people incapacitated … or amenable to suggestion, as David’s “suggestion gas” is designed. It’s like hypnosis, but instantaneous and purely chemical in nature. Imagine if we had that at our disposal!
On second thought…
And it’s exactly that kind of interplay that makes Think Tank work. Instead of checking out of life and enjoying the possibility of maximum carnage, this is a comic that will always tread the line but never choose a side. That choice is left to us, the readers – as it was always intended.
Just be aware before you crack your first issue: this book will get your gears turning. If you like to escape from reality through your comic, then perhaps leave this aside for a time. But if, like me, you like a comic that teaches as well as entertains, then pop your head into the Think Tank for an issue or two.
Until next week.
- Review: Einstein Must Die! (Fate of Nations #1) by Chris Kohout (bookloversattic.wordpress.com)
- Think Tank #11 Review (comichype.com)
- Preview: Think Tank #11 (graphicpolicy.com)
- The Buy Pile – Giant Robots & Bickering Brothers (comicbookresources.com)