This fourth volume of The Manhattan Projects is subtitled The Four Disciplines, which is a clear reference to the projects that our group of scientists decided to undertake in order to make the world a better place. Well, most of them were working to make things better - more and more we've seen Oppenheimer go down a rather dark path as he tries to forward his own agenda to subvert all the other projects.
And the last volume ended with a bit of a cliffhanger with most of the team captured and at the mercy of Oppenheimer and his allies. Despite all their intelligence and their best efforts to see things through, Oppenheimer's deviousness may have been more than a match for their brain power.
Synopsis: The Manhattan Projects is what happens when you let Jonathan Hickman run wild with an alternate history version of the brains of World War II coupled with some mad science fiction craziness. This volume collects issues #16-20 of the little. Nick Pitarra still handles the art.
At the end of the last volume, Oppenheimer pretty much seized control of the facility and is now preparing to torture each of the project leaders in order to get them to share the secrets of their individual research efforts. You have a super pumped General Westmoreland leading a detachment of soldiers more or less in control of things as Oppenheimer starts to work to get the information that he needs.
But whether intentionally or not, events are in motion to allow our science heroes a chance at escape. If anything, it may actually be safer inside their cell instead of out in the facility given some of the other experiments that had been on-going. The book also dives into more of the events that took place beyond our Earth and also back to the endless conflict inside Oppenheimer's mind. There's simply a lot going on.
I rather enjoyed how the title spent some time exploring the new friendship between our alternate Albrecht Einstein and Richard Feynman. Sure, they were assigned to the same project so they were bound to spend more time together. But really, how they end up surviving on alien worlds as part of their explorations made for great character development time. And as much as those moments could have been limited to being an isolated flashback, the whole sequence was actually used to push the plot forward even more and to explain just what was at risk in the facility itself.
Oppenheimer certainly proves to be one rather scary antagonist. It's not like we as readers could ever really trust him earlier in the series given his sort of origin story and the internal struggle we've seen involving his various personalities, but man the way he brings his plan together this time around is truly impressive. And it's clear that it will probably take the combined efforts of our noble scientists to deal with him, or perhaps just a few not-so-noble ones instead.
The book largely follows a similar structure to the last collection, so yes, we all get the update on the war of the Oppeheimers towards the end of the arc. And man, the scale of the conflict is rather glorious and I'm glad that we all get to experience this mental event in such a visual way. How it will matter in the long run is of course anyone's guess - for now the way goes on and it's never truly final since the mind is a very tricky place, one would expect. But I do love what Pitarra does in terms of his visualizations for the ebb and flow of this conflict. It goes well beyond just color shifts.
I'm finding it harder and harder to talk about this series at length since I don't want to spoil things for you. And as we come into this set of stories, you'll appreciate how so many plot threads laid out all the way in the first volume are now being resolved. But as is the expected practice, new stories are being prepared and every answer only triggers more questions and thus more possible narratives to explore together. It's all so brilliant.
The Manhattan Projects Vol. 4 The Four Disciplines is yet another great addition to the series and a rather jarring point for resolving many key stories. There's a lot of craziness and a lot of reveals and it's all glorious. Thus the collection gets 4 Oppenheimer soldiers out of a possible 5.