Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing The Manhattan Projects: The Sun Beyond the Stars 2, originally released July 29th, 2015.
Patrick: The original The Manhattan Projects series built its mystique by taking figures and events from history and slightly distorting, exaggerating and recontextualizing them into a bizarrely compelling science fiction story. It’s a masterclass in having fun with the concept of an alternate history, and writer Jonathan Hickman seemed singularly focused on what was fun about his alternate history. Occasionally, dates and lifespans and discoveries wouldn’t exactly line up, but the series really didn’t need petty adherence to logic: the loose framework provided by those historical figures was enough to ground some absolutely bonkers storytelling. Now that we’re Beyond the Stars, that framework has morphed from historical figures to science fiction conventions, and even still, Hickman is as unpredictable and unprecious as ever. Continue reading →
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, Taylor and Drew are discussing The Manhattan Projects 16, originally released November 13th, 2013.
Taylor: You know that one picture of Einstein, the one where he’s looking at the camera and playfully sticking his tongue out at the camera? Of course you do — of all the hundreds of pictures of Einstein that exist, that particular portrait sticks out in our collective consciousness. There are probably several reasons for that, but perhaps one of the most powerful is that the picture portrays the author of the general theory of relativity in the way we would like to think he existed. With his frizzy white hair and iconic mustache, Einstein cuts a figure that is both endearing and intelligent. We like to think of Einstein, the grand scientist, as having a playful and childlike streak because it makes him lovable and human, rather than untouchable and superhuman. In this way, we all liken ourselves to Einstein. If that zany dude can revolutionize the world, why not me? However, this disregards the real Einstein, who was often angry and frustrated with himself and the science he devoted his life to. But which of these pictures of Einstein is more accurate and, more importantly, does it matter?
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 →