Friday, December 27, 2013

Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atom Bomb, by Charlynn Estes


Trinity’s art fluctuates from realistic to cartoonish depending on the subject matter. The people are caricatures of people, but because many of them are public figures, they still hold a resemblance to their real life counterparts. The scientific and architectural illustrations are depicted much more realistically, many of which resemble images one would expect to find in a textbook. This creates an interesting contrast between the people and their settings, and illustrates the differences between the soft, human world and the cold, harsh reality of the scientific.

2.      Fetter-Von is quoted as saying that the graphic novel was uniquely suited to the type of story he wanted to tell. With a comic, he could “draw a picture of the Greek myth of Prometheus alongside Marie Curie in her laboratory, followed by a schematic diagram of sub-atomic particles, and already in the first few pages [I’ve] constructed a narrative about science, myth, and history.”

Trinity is a historical, philosophical, and scientific work. Through images, Fetter-Von is able to construct a narrative that includes all of these aspects at the same time, something almost impossible through a traditional novel. You do not have to be familiar with the myth of Prometheus, Marie Curie, Oppenheimer or physics to understand Trinity—the images and the ideas they represent are readily explained through illustration and narrative. This opens the story of the first atomic bomb up to a much larger audience than a traditional novel would have, and let’s face it, makes it much more interesting.

3.      Trinity’s narrator is omniscient—an all knowing, and largely neutral, third party that molds the information presented in the novel into a coherent narrative. Through the narrator, the audience is allowed a glimpse into many of the character’s inner thoughts and feelings, serving to make some of the characters—like Oppenheimer and General Groves—into more than just historical figures.

Omniscient narration also allows Fetter-Von to focus on the different levels of thought surrounding the Manhattan Project. Something as big as the Mutually Assured Destruction military strategy can be juxtaposed with the terror on a young Nagasaki boy’s face.

4.      Although Trinity has many terrifying and touching scenes, the one that truck me the most was the first test detonation of the bomb. In this scene we are able to see the blast from five different perspectives, that of the scientists, soldiers, bureaucrats, general population, and Oppenheimer.

In the left panel we have the now familiar mushroom shaped cloud of the bomb; its detonation radios is so great that it overlaps into the next page, almost consuming the other panels. To the right we are able to see the faces of the various bystanders, overlaid with the famous quote from Oppenheimer: “We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita: ’Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.’”

Because the first test took place at the early hours of the morning, earlier even than the sun, the surrounding blackness of the night creates an organic frame around both bystanders and the bomb. The contrast between the whiteness of their faces and the ash of the explosion is striking. As the air around them glows with the radioactive burn of plutonium, so hot that it turns the sand around it to glass, you can see that Oppenheimer’s description of the event was true—the world would never be the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment