Review – Mindset #4 (Vault Comics)

Publisher: Vault Comics
Writer: Zack Kaplan
Artwork: John Pearson
Lettering: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Release Date: 19th October 2022

What would you do if you invented the “source code” for mind control? A specific frequency, a little flash of light, and the person who sees it will do literally anything you ask. Would you use it to make money? Obtain power? Or, in the case Ben Sharp, the Silicon Valley graduate who did exactly this alongside three of his friends, would you try and use it to make the world a better place?

At the end of the previous issue, our quartet’s attempt to avoid the blackmail of tech billionaire Peter Winfield by stealing his phone and locking him into a “loop” of mind control ended in tragedy when one of the four, Kushal, was shot and killed by Winfield’s security. However, as with the final pages of the last chapter, Ben’s narration for this latest issue completely fails to acknowledge these events, instead believing fully that their plan was executed to perfection.

It’s a brilliant device, with series writer Zack Kaplan delivering an interesting tweak on the unreliable narrator trope, where we know the narrator is unreliable but have to sift through his version of the narrative anyway. Adding even more intrigue to to the mix is the fact that we now have a newfound ambiguity to the story in the form of a multi-layered game of “who is controlling who?” The events we saw at the end of issue three clearly took place (right?), but there’s a lot of uncertainty about why Ben can’t remember it, or at the very least, about who it is that’s making sure he can’t remember.

John Person remains absolutely perfect for delivering the boldly unconventional visual style of this series. The page layouts are beautifully structured, with a creative use of panels, negative space and quirky visual flourishes aplenty, all combining to deliver an aesthetic which is every bit as mind-bending as the story itself.  The way the art frequently shifts from fully rendered to almost sketch-like helps to emphasise the unreliability of the story and, as always, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou delivers a real visual flair of his own with the lettering, keeping things clear throughout but never allowing himself to fall into a bland, conventional style.

Once again, Kaplan, Pearson and Otsmane-Elhaou are working in absolute lockstep here, and the pacing remains truly immaculate, slowing down when needed before gradually ramping up once again to an absolute crescendo in the frantic, wide-eyed final pages as Ben catches up to the rest of us about what exactly is happening to him.

For my money, Mindset is one of the best books being published right now, and this is the strongest issue of the series so far. It continues to take an extreme look at the increasingly insidious nature of social media, but does it with such seemingly effortless flair that it’s difficult not to find yourself completely and utterly sucked into the story from the moment you turn the first page of each issue. Absolutely essential reading.

Rating: 5/5.


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

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