Manhattan Projects returned from hiatus with a fresh approach: a series of miniseries, each with its own focus. The series had become increasingly complex, with its political intrigue and several interconnected character arcs. This volume collects The Sun Beyond The Stars #1-4, which the title pages in the collection number as #26-29, continuing the series numbering. It tells the story of cosmonaut Yuri Gagaran and his dog Laika. Yuri went into deep space in search of Laika, but finding him turns out to be only the beginning. The pair find themselves involved in a revenge plot against the Sionnu Science Union, the undisputed rulers of that part of space. It’s an adventure story, full of twists and turns, but not nearly as byzantine as the earlier parts of the series–in fact it doesn’t require knowledge of the earlier issues at all, beyond familiarity with Gagaran and Laika. Our heroes accomplish a series of miraculous escapes, but let’s just say they do not get a happy ending. It would be interesting to see other self-contained stories like this, but the series seems to have gone on hiatus again–these four issues took almost a year to come out individually, and there have been none since.
I love this series, but once again I let it drop off my radar. The group of ex-agents we’ve been following is still trying to stop Mind Management’s re-formation. Meru’s power-damping ability is proving to be something of a liability, because no one knows quite how it works, or what kind of distance it affects. In this arc it botches the team’s effort to recruit another powerful ex-agent called The Magician, whose power is the ability to create powerful illusions. Leads take them to Berlin and Hong Kong, with organizational exploits from the 1960s through the 1980s having an impact on the present. This arc includes a “silent” issue (with the characters “speaking” entirely through their thoughts). The agents run into some very violent ex-agents on the side of The Eraser, who is trying to re-establish Mind Management. Bad things happen, but these people seem to be very hard to kill.
The penultimate collection of the series, this arc finds Meru relentlessly going after The Eraser, who is trying to reestablish MIND MGMT. She’s convinced that time is of the essence, so much so that she barely has time to deal with the breakup of her group in the previous collection. Duncan is MIA, but the agent he had prearranged tells Meru she must find the First Immortal, something no one has ever done (or returned from the search, for that matter). When she finds him she learns all about the secret founding and early history of MIND MGMT–probably the last big secret in the series. She plans her attack on The Eraser assuming she will be alone, but winds up with some surprise allies. Nonetheless the result is in doubt. The Eraser is wounded but escapes and passes out. The final issue in the collection is cast as one of the YA novels written by P.K. Verve which served as MIND MGMT indoctrination tools. She remembers meeting and marrying him, and her career in MIND MGMT. Much of this information has been previously revealed, but it’s interesting to see it all in one place, and from her perspective. As the issue ends she is awoken by her ally Lance, setting up the final conflict in the sixth volume.
The first volume culminated with the procedure to make the female android named Ada sentient. It’s an illegal act, so the story here begins with the couple trying to decide how best to keep the secret. At the same time Ada is learning how being sentient feels, and how to act. There’s a funny scene of her first breakfast: Alex has prepared a huge array of food to see what she might like, and she likes almost all of it. Alex’s timing in getting the sentience programming done turns out to be especially unfortunate, because the government has just announced a crackdown on sentient androids. There have been some incidents, enough to make many people afraid of androids generally. The inevitable romantic attraction between them also rears its head. Serious discussions about what sentience means and human acceptance of androids are almost obscured by the standard romantic tropes, although they are certainly well done. After separating briefly the pair wind up together by the end. But Ada was filmed publicly behaving in a sentient way, so there appears to be a run from the authorities in the cards for the third volume.