Review – Mindset #6 (Vault Comics)
Publisher: Vault Comics
Writer: Zack Kaplan
Artwork: John Pearson
Lettering: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Release Date: 11th January 2023
[WARNING: REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS]
I honestly can’t remember the last time I was this excited to read the final chapter of a story. Following the bombshell reveal at the end of the last issue where the person responsible for Silicon Valley tech genius Ben Sharp being mind controlled was finally revealed, this final chapter deals with the fallout from that discovery as Ben is forced to confront his former friend and business partner Eitan and decide the fate of Mindset once and for all.
Fresh from a well-earned appearance in my ‘Best of 2022’ list, my personal expectation for this final issue was almost dizzyingly high. Zack Kaplan and John Pearson haven’t put a single foot wrong to this point, but trying to wrap up such a disorienting tale packed with twists, turns and misleading narratives in a genuinely satisfyingly way was always going to be an incredibly tall order. Well, to the surprise of absolutely nobody (least of all me), the landing was well and truly stuck here as the entire creative team delivered a tense, shocking and deeply rewarding conclusion.
Despite the high-concept plot, this is very much a character-focused conclusion as Ben’s painful self-reflection takes centre stage. The discovery that he was one responsible for mind controlling everyone is a top quality rug pull, both for him and the reader, and the rippling doubt that happens both internally and externally in Ben’s world following this realisation makes for a thoroughly compelling read. The showdown with Eitan is delivered with a real flair, and both Pearson and letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou do a stellar job in bringing the gradually escalating situation to the page. As a side note, I absolutely love the idea of a Mexican standoff with mobile phones, which is essentially what we get here.
As with the first five issues of the series (and, let’s be honest, pretty much every single comic he’s ever drawn), Pearson eschews conventional layouts and visual styles to deliver a gloriously unique aesthetic here, from hallucinogenic splash pages to striking moments where panels or characters are presented in a colourless, sketch-like style to help punctuate the storyline beats. The aforementioned showdown is handled beautifully as both players go back and forth, finishing each other’s sentences as the dispute over who really was the one in “control” is laid bare.
Honestly, this is about as satisfying a conclusion as I could hope for. There’s a brief allusion early on to “the signal” perhaps being its own mysterious entity which somehow sought out Ben, but thankfully that particular hypothesis isn’t really taken any further. I far prefer this to be a story about the corrupting nature of technology and how, despite a person’s best intentions, its intoxicating influence can still end up coming close to destroying their own life and the lives of those around them.
Oh, and I particularly enjoyed the fourth wall-breaking nod to the reader in the final pages as Ben addresses us directly, putting a thought-provoking flourish on one of the best comic books I’ve read for quite some time. The final pages also help to deliver a suitably ambiguous conclusion that leaves a lot of the deeper answers still up in the air. And with Mindset still very much operational, there’s a pleasing amount of uncertainty that fits perfectly with the story before it.
Kaplan, Pearson and Otsmane-Elhaou are a creative triumvirate that I’m hoping we haven’t seen the last of. Pulling off some outstanding narrative misdirection and delivering a thoughtful look at the insidious nature of technology and social media, Mindset is, for my money, the glittering crown jewel in Vault’s already stellar library of titles.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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