Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Manhattan Projects 24, originally released October 8th, 2014.
“How did they build those pyramids?” They just threw human death and suffering at them until they were finished. “How did we traverse the nation with a railroad so quickly?” We just threw Chinese people in caves and blew ’em up and didn’t give a shit what happened to them. There’s no end to what you can do when you don’t give a fuck about particular people. You can do anything. That’s where human greatness comes from: that we’re shitty people and we fuck others over.
Drew: Has the phrase “you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” ever been used for anything other than falsely justifying horrific acts? It’s so strongly associated with evil advisors, it’s a wonder that it could ever persuade a unsure advisee, but it also has the unfortunate quality of being true to our experience of the world. Few, it seems, ever reach the top without the boost of standing on someone else’s neck. It’s easy to become bitter about people being used as pawns, but it’s also the stuff of great dramas — to what lengths are people willing to go in order to attain power? Manhattan Projects obviously has more in common with those heightened fictions than reality, but issue 24 never minimizes the monstrosities its protagonists commit in order to hold on to power, focusing on one of the more traumatizing events in US History. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing The Manhattan Projects 20, originally released April 23, 2014.
“Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds.”
Robert Oppenheimer, actual American History
Patrick: J. Robert Oppenheimer repeated this phrase, which he had read in the Bhadavad Gita, when we witnessed the first test of the atomic bomb. This is recorded in actual history text books, and widely believed to be true, but what exactly he meant by invoking the passage remains up to interpretation. Is he calmly asserting his own will over the strength of human life? Is he mourning his eternal loss of innocence? The odd syntax and the double verb make it an ungainly sentence, and speaking it aloud feels just as strange as the realization itself. Manhattan Projects has long been a series about an alternate American History, but this is the first issue to make a point of a similarity between all universes: Robert Oppenheimer is the face of evil.
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Manhattan Projects 14, originally released September 11th, 2013.
Patrick: Lately, it feels like we’re in the business of reading big dumb crossover events. One of the benefits of these things is that it allows for a smattering of characters from all across the universe (and all throughout the history of said universe) to interact. Say what you will about the various contrivances that jam these characters together — there’s something super compelling about watching them interact. Jonathan Hickman manages the same feat with Manhattan Projects, pulling his cast from the history books. There are similar logical inconsistencies, but if you just accept that he wanted these characters to interact as badly as Geoff Johns wanted John Constantine to match wits with Batman, then it totally works. Issue 14 of Manhattan Projects serves as a real-world Crisis on Infinite 1960s. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Manhattan Projects 13, originally released August 7th, 2013.
Drew: We often joke about “historical fiction” being an oxymoron, but that mostly stems from a misperception of just how fictionalized history is. Indeed, if history were simply a compilation of irrefutable facts, we could probably stop writing books about the life of Abraham Lincoln or whatever. Instead, we have a messy timeline made up of conflicting accounts and countless ways of explaining all of it. To me, the biggest difference between history and historical fiction is that history needs to back up its conclusions with more facts — it’s basically the narrative between to factual points — whereas historical fiction treats the facts more as a starting point, but doesn’t need to tie back to any facts. In that way, Manhattan Projects has become a kind of meta-historical fiction, taking a fictionalized conclusion as its starting point, and building to ever more spectacular fictions. It’s never been anything other than divorced from reality, but as the narrative continues, it somehow manages to become even less related to history. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Manhattan Projects 12, originally released June 12th, 2013.
Oh my God. Oh my God! Oh my God! The whole time? The whole time, you were – THE WHOLE TIME?!
-Sally Field as Miranda Hillard Mrs. Doubtfire
Drew: I love a good twist. Nothing is better than being surprised by a narrative — especially with something that fundamentally shifts the paradigm of the story. Of course, it’s possible to go too big with a twist — if you change the foundation too much, you run the risk of invalidating the emotional connections based on that foundation. Obviously, it’s difficult to bring up examples without spoiling some big twists, which hopefully explains the epigraph — by the climax of Mrs. Doubtfire Sally Field’s character is basically the only person that doesn’t know Robin Williams is her nanny, but that doesn’t negate her growing sense of betrayal as she realizes that this was the case THE WHOLE TIME. I had a similar reaction as Manhattan Projects 12 reveals that Fermi isn’t the character we think he is. When Harry reveals that he knows Fermi is an alien at the end of Manhattan Projects 11, Patrick and I were touched — we saw their friendship as the sweet story of two outsiders who found each other. In issue 12, Jonathan Hickman rips that still-beating heart out through our eye-holes, and lets us know that it was all a lie, anyway. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Manhattan Projects 11, originally released April 24th, 2013.
Patrick: We take the term of “science fiction” for granted. It’s a genre and an aesthetic that has become ironically formulaic over the years. Just as “fantasy” increasing means a cookie-cutter world of elves and goblins and dragons, “science fiction” means spaceships and lasers and aliens (or robots, so say we all). Jonathan Hickman’s Manhattan Projects returns to the source of the phrase and delivers a series both surprisingly scientific and excitingly fictional. I’m still tinkering with the punctuation, but I think “science/fiction” is the most appropriate. Continue reading →