Comic Vine Review


The Manhattan Projects #14 - Upward Bound Review


Sometimes, the only way to go upward is to fall down first.

The Good

What better way to give someone an upward trajectory than to hurl them towards rock bottom? Last issue, we saw the Manhattan Projects team splinter off into smaller subsets (Ares, Vulcan, Gaia, and Charon), and this time around, we get to see that everyone is more vulnerable when the team is fragmented.

Everyone in the cast is a little bit worse for the wear by the time this issue opens, and exponentially so by its conclusion. It's rough to see these characters in fully vulnerable situations -- von Braun's deteriorating physical condition, Yuri's sense of loss and fear over Laika's imminent danger, Einstein's heavier drinking and confession of weakness, Ustinov's physical displacement and exposure to air -- because they can't shine as the geniuses they are, and they can barely keep themselves alive. (It's also rough because Pitarra and Bellaire give these weaknesses such a raw quality, von Braun's arm especially.)

On the surface, this can be attributed to a changing of the guard outside of the Projects, but since we know that this team of geniuses has always been tougher than any political or military interlopers, there's an inside link. Oppenheimer, the orchestrator of the team's effective disarming, is, himself, being attacked from within. It's a pitch-perfect illustration of Hickman's ability to make the micro and macro stories mirrors of each other, and it forces us to look more closely at what's happening on both levels. As Oppenheimer overloads and degrades, so the team is burdened, fragmented, and taken down. And yet, he is the one to tell us that there's so much work to be done, so we know that he -- and the team -- will be following suit with the issue's title and aiming upward.

The Bad

Much like the team, the book struggles to accomplish much when it's fragmented, so Issue #14 feels like it packs less of a punch than some others. It's also a bit of a set-up for #15, with a great deal of change that lacks either confrontation or resolution. That said, I think it lays some serious groundwork, and is more nuanced than it appears on first read, so it's not one to skip.

The Verdict

MANHATTAN PROJECTS remains one of my favorite series in publication right now; it's so fantastically different from everything else, and it's a fine showcase for the talents of Hickman, Pitarra, Bellaire, and Wooton. Issue #14 feels like a bit of a transitional issue, setting everyone in a precarious situation that promises to be resolved (for better or worse) later, but it's a necessary build towards #15, which closes out the volume.

8 Comments Refresh
Posted by TheFirstLantern

I am interested in this, might have to buy the trades. I am in Upward Bound so that is what I found interesting

Posted by MissJ

@thefirstlantern: I had no idea there was another meaning to "Upward Bound!" I'd definitely recommend starting with the first couple of trades so you can see what's been going on with the team through this point (seeing them at their "base" state helps you understand how different and vulnerable things are now). It's a fast and enjoyable read!

Posted by TheFirstLantern

@missj: Yeah its a government funded educational program sadly it doesn't sounds as cool as the one here. Alrighty thanks for the rec. I love me some Hickman and well its Sci-fi right?

Posted by manwithoutshame

Manhattan Projects continues to put a smile on my face.

Posted by MissJ

@thefirstlantern: It's so much more than sci fi! I'd call it alt-history with a sci-fi slant.

Edited by MissJ
Edited by kid Apollo

i never really heard much about this book until i asked a buddy of mine if it was any good, he lent me the first issues and after reading it i went out and bought every issue i could fins. such a good book

Edited by Ikb658

This is my favourite comic out at the moment. Hands down. Every couple of issues I find myself re-reading past issues because of things that have happened, affecting how scenes played out. I keep thinking it would be better to try and wait for the trades so I could have more in one go, but it hasn't yet... I am also reading Think Tank - when I can get hold of it! People need to show some more love for that book! Scientists definitely have a good story to tell.