Advance Review – Mindset #1 (Vault Comics)

Publisher: Vault Comics
Writer: Zack Kaplan
Artwork: John Pearson
Lettering: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Release Date: 29th June 2022

On sale next month from Vault Comics, Mindset is a title I honestly don’t want to share too much about for fear of spoiling impact when you eventually read it.  Unfortunately, it’s also a title I’m super keen to recommend as emphatically as is humanly possible, so I find myself in the age old “advance review” dilemma.  Say enough without saying too much.  Let’s give it a try though…

Kicking off with a murder investigation before branching out into the ‘origin story’ of a grad student who became a Silicon Valley tech billionaire pretty much overnight, series writer Zack Kaplan delivers a thriller of an opening issue here as we meet young Ben Sharp and watch his singularly unique story unfold.

Kaplan digs into some interesting themes here, such as the way social media and apps subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) influences our lives, whether we want them to or not. There are also some moral questions being asked about misuse of power and controlling people via technology that it’s going to be really interesting to see explored as this series unfolds.

On the visual side of things, John Pearson puts in a typically stellar turn with his distinctive artistic style, blending realistic characters with a slightly trippy, faintly disturbing aesthetic. More than that though, the artwork is so intrinsically intertwined with the story that it starts to take on its own personality, ebbing and flowing throughout and cleverly carrying its own sub-plots outside of the main narrative.

I’ve been a massive fan of Pearson’s work since Beast Wagon back in 2015, and this feels like a tailor-made story for him to show off his knack for genuinely engrossing visuals.  In a lot of ways, and without wanting to diminish either man’s work, the art here definitely has some thematic and aesthetic similarities to Martin Simmonds’ work on Image’s Department of Truth, and both creators (the latter of whom actually provides a variant cover for this first issue) should be applauded for their strikingly visceral approach to sequential artwork.

A significant tip of the cap should also be made for the lettering exploits of Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, who integrates himself beautifully into Pearson’s aesthetic, providing subtle-but-impactful visual flourishes throughout the course of this issue, from the wispy tails on the word balloons to the way the narration boxes guide us around certain pages.  It’s all textbook stuff as you might expect, but textbook with a real stylish flair to it.  The ‘Otsmane-Elhaou Special’, I guess you could call it.

What I particularly enjoyed about this first issue was the pacing, and the way things gradually ramp up as we near the final page.  The looming storyline deadline certainly plays a part in this, but so does the subtle shifts in the dialogue and artwork from Kaplan and Pearson, hitting us with an increasing number of panels and dialogue boxes before reaching a shocking crescendo as the sheer scope of young Ben’s monumental discovery becomes apparent.

Honestly, this is fantastic. Striking, inventive and deeply relevant in today’s technology-dependent world.  And if this stellar first issue is anything to go by, this may end up being one of the true standouts in Vault’s already impressive library of titles.

Rating: 4.5/5.


Variant cover by Martin Simmonds

The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
Article Archive: Ceej Says
You can follow Ceej on Twitter

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