I read Think Tank volume four (subtitled Creative Destruction) recently. Think Tank, a comic about a DARPA-employed scientist called Dr. David Loren growing a conscience while playing with the toys of the U.S. military has five collections, and while I haven't read volume five yet; I've read the first four.
There's a big turn in Creative Destruction, where Loren struggles with a depressive episode by virtue of having a hand in killing someone just like him while the victim was laid up in a hospital. Add to that the fact that Loren's CIA field agent girlfriend isn't around, and Creative Destruction ends on the note of Loren attempting suicide, which is rough. Killing people is a few people's ideas of a good time, even at the palatial remove that Dr. Loren is situated in.
For all the effort writer Matt Hawkins puts into making Loren sympathetic, it's difficult to garner much sympathy for him, and my ignoble first thought was that Loren should get shot with Douglas Adams' Point Of View gun a couple of times. (Forgive me, I now imagine the video for Huntin Season by Jadakiss and Pusha T where the two rappers mug for the camera with the point of view gun instead of buckshot rounds.)
Why am I not terribly sympathetic to a man in a bad spot? Well, because the man's a malignant narcissist in one of the jobs that all of DEF CON would step all over each other to have, who has no conception of the world around him. Once introduced to a lesbian colleague, he hacks her phone and digitally graffitis pictures of her partner. Once he's forced to apologize by a mutual friend, Loren then asks if he can watch the colleague and her partner have sex. Artist Rahsan Ekedal illustrates this last part, like a lost Bugs Bunny segment. Oh, that scoundrel, the team tells us.
How the Think Tank team views Loren, I don't know, but the more I read of Loren, the more I think of the Alejandro Arbona tweet about Jeph Loeb.
Jeph Loeb used to come to our Marvel creative retreats and he'd say the cruelest, pettiest things to people, even people way below his station, with this devilish grin as if he was just such a cute little stinker. Turns out he's a huge racist? Oh yeah wow what a surprise
— Alejandro A. Arbona 🇵🇷 (@Alejandrobot) July 27, 2020
Loren's a child, and the text of Think Tank thus far is looking at this child play with all these dangerous, hyper-powerful toys. Then again, character growth is part of most good stories, and Loren's slowly changing. He's smart enough to realize he lives in a gilded cage bought by American tax dollars. (In volume one, he escaped DARPA, only to return in volume two.)
There's a subtle thing that the team does in Creative Destruction, highlighting how dilapidated some infrastructure in the United States is while in the following pages showing just how profligate spending in the Defense Department is. It's not quite as on the nose as the team using the military-industrial complex quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower's farewell address as an epigraph to issue one, but it's more effective to me.
But say the team wanted to hit the anti-war nail on the head: Imagine instead of the military-industrial complex quote, the team chose this from Eisenhower's Chance For Peace speech:
"This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people."
Then, when Loren comments later on that a general saw Iron Man and decided that every soldier needed an Iron Man suit, the reader was already primed with what else a single Iron Man suit could buy. It'd be great.
I used to think that Think Tank, a comic about the dangers of the military-industrial complex engaging with science starring a childish "slacker" genius, was a guilty pleasure. These days, with a defense budget approaching one trillion dollars yearly, I'm not so sure.