(The introduction to this review is long and windy. Feel free to skip down a few paragraphs.)
I grew up in Science Fiction, but was raised in Fantasy.
Allow me to elaborate.
Sci-Fi didn’t happen much at home, early on. Mom read X-Men and ElfQuest. But my Uncle owned a comic book shop, Mom worked it, and I spent every spare second and then some in that store. As soon as I was old enough, I started volunteering at the conventions the store put on. It was mostly Science Fiction. It was centered around Star Trek and would “branch out” into Star Wars, BattleStar Galactica, Andromeda, Buck Rodgers, etc etc…
So I began watching the tv shows and movies at home because I’d met and known some of the actors. It was always fun to watch people I’d spent time with in real life on my tv. This naturally led me to the books of the same shows and genre. While I loved watched Sci-Fi on the tv and in the movies, I found the books infinitely BORING. The comics, the novels, all seemed so wordy and slow, and, so it seemed to me, the author expected you to know and understand everything he did, so there was little to no explanation on the whys and hows things happened and worked. Reading Sci-Fi felt like a Science test I hadn’t studied for.
This past weekend in Tulsa, Ok, (my home town) the first Green Country Comics and Gaming convention took place. It was small, but fun and lively. Lots of people hanging out, playing games, discussing their assorted geekery, and it had a really great atmosphere. We took our kids, but it was my oldest son who had the most fun. Being his first ever comic book convention, I made sure to bring one of my Green Lantern trades for him to have signed by Sterling Gates, who did one of the smaller stories in the book. It was awesome to watch him get his first ever signature. Sterling handled him amazingly.
But the highlight for me was Top Cow’s CEO and comic book writer/creator Matt Hawkins. Shortly after the con opened, Matt had a panel, “21 Years of Top Cow”. I made my wife and four children sit through it. (WHAT?! You took small children to a comic book panel, are you NUTS?!) Well, yes. But I’ll say this, my kids remained quiet and enjoyed the videos and presentations Matt played for us. Listening to Matt talk about the comic book business, his history and experiences, and the Talent Hunt has me itching to try my hand at the writing. I’m saying this now, so when I try and fail miserably, I can blame Matt’s influence for my failure later. Always have a scapegoat, folks.
Matt also spoke of his comic Think Tank. I read a lot of comics, and while I love Top Cow, I don’t read everything that comes out of there just because it comes out of Top Cow. That’s stupid! That place is gold! Remind me next time Top Cow comes out with a comic not to wait so freaking long to pick it up! Have you guys read this book??? Holy CRAP!
I was able to catch Matt at his booth. I knew he was going to be at the con, so I’d prepared a list of questions for the blog to ask him. Which he, of course, went over during the panel, so when I walked up to his table, I had nothing. Absolutely nothing. He’d tweeted me and asked what I thought the turnout to the con might be like before that weekend. So I awkwardly asked him if the turnout was everything he expected it to be. While Sterling Gates treated us like fans and was amazing, Matt spoke to me like a person, and I think that was better, somehow. We talked about cons in general a bit, and he spoke to me about his comic Think Tank. He had the first volume in a trade for sale and he even signed it for me. I sat down on the couch Sunday night, intent on reading a few pages before my wife and I watched some TV (nightly grown-up time ritual before bed), and I ended up unable to put the damn thing down.
(Here’s the actual review!)
Think Tank reads like a Fantasy book, while subtly educating you using real Science and is very much grounded in reality.
It’s exciting, quick paced, witty, and FUN, page to page. The tech and science used in the book is real. It’s things that are out in the world, right now. Matt explains the science and working behind the things he using in his book in the last few pages of each issue he calls “Science Class”. The main character, Dr. David Loren is a genius. Drafted at 14 to DARPA, a military research facility, Loren creates all of the high-tech equipment and projects the military uses. His associate, fellow scientist and best-friend Dr. Manish Pavi is a wonderful character, almost Loren’s Jiminy Cricket. DARPA keeps Manish around to help keep David on task. Glorified babysitter. In the first volume, we find David having been struck with a conscience and wanting out of the first-world indentured servitude he feels he was duped into at an age too young to understand what he was signing his life away to.
I’ll warn you, this book WILL fuel the conspiracy theorist in you. If I had any trust in our government before (HA!) it would’ve been dissolved away by knowledge that this tech and science is something they’re using today. David and the military officials stay at odds throughout the whole book as David tries to change the path his life is leading down. He doesn’t want to make things that kill people anymore. However, a Colonel Harrison is sent in to get David back on task – making a list of tech the military wants a reality.
I won’t ruin the whole thing for you, but David makes an escape attempt from the compound that you have to read. It just can’t be explained accurately or as well as if you’d read it. Matt Hawkins doesn’t dumb-down the science or water things down, rather what he doesn’t explain inside the book, he goes over in his Science Class, so you never feel lost. In fact, in a world where comic books are costing so much, having this extra in the back is an awesome little treat for readers. Rahsan’s art meshes so well with the story; the emotion, and sometimes lack of emotion, brought out in the characters compliments Matt’s writing very well.
During his panel, Matt asked us a question. “How many comic books have you read?” As some of us started doing the math, he then asked “Okay. How many do you remember?” Comic books are too expensive to waste your money on books you’re going not only read once and never pick up again, but not even remember later. (To be honest, thinking of the number of books I’ve read, versus the ones that have stuck with me over the years, was a little bit of a mindblower and makes you re-assess your comic book buying.)
Think Tank Vol 1 is a comic book that demands remembrance. The humor and human element of the story captures you while the artwork and expression of the characters stays with you.
But what else have you come to expect from Matt Hawkins and Top Cow comics?
I highly suggest you picking up this comic, and to help you get hooked, here’s the link to the Top Cow website where you can get the first issue for free.
Also, follow Matt Hawkins and Rahsan Ekedal on twitter!
@TopCowMatt and @RahsanEkedal