Without the work of Zack Kaplan, my columns would not exist.
Pretty bold statement there, huh? Let me explain. When I got married eleven years ago, I moved far away from my LCS, and the area I moved to did not have a comic shop nearby. I had grown tired of the Marvel and DC comics I had been reading anyways, so just stopping reading cold turkey was easier than I thought. I boxed up my books, put them away, and assumed I was done with that part of my life forever.
About six years after that, I ended up in bed with medical issues. Nothing too serious, but enough that I had to spend extended time laying in bed looking at the ceiling. My wife got me a brand new Kindle reader, and I quickly discovered that there were a lot of free comics available and felt that old itch return.
As I healed, I started to think about getting back into comics again. I found a sweet little LCS near my work, and started going there fairly regularly to shop and bother the staff with my questions. Eventually I wore them down and we became good friends, so much so that the manager invited me to join him on his YouTube channel to do a bunch of book reviews.
He handed me a stack of comics to read beforehand, and right at the top was Port of Earth, written by Zack Kaplan and illustrated by Andrea Mutti. Up to that point my new comic renaissance had been limited to New 52 and Rebirth titles from DC, and I had avoided most of the indie books, since the indie titles I remembered from my youth were long since cancelled. Still, I wanted to be a good guest on the show so I got home and read Port of Earth through quickly. Then I went back and reread it slower. Then I read it a third time, and I was hooked.
If you never read Port of Earth, it tells the story of an alien conglomerate that comes to Earth, and in return for allowing the aliens to build a space port, they give Earth the technology to use water as a fuel source. Overnight the energy crisis is solved, but the economy is devastated. On top of that, alien criminals begin to sneak out of the supposedly sealed and isolated port, and Earth police are powerless to stop them. It’s a nightmare of bureaucracy and horror that just hit my sci-fi loving heart so hard.
Port of Earth was my gateway back into indie comics, and once I dove back in, there was no turning back.
Since then, whenever Zack Kaplan comes out with a new title I know two things; the first is that it’s going to take a unique and interesting approach to something that I probably have never even thought about before, and the second is that I’m going to love it. Which takes us to today’s book, Mindset by Zack Kaplan and John J. Pearson, releasing soon from Vault Comics. Vault sent me a copy to review two days ago and from the first page I knew I had to share how great this book is going to be.
So without any further ado, let’s talk about this book.
Here’s what Kaplan had to say in a recent interview when asked about the plot: Mindset is a dark, twisted techno thriller about for grad school nobodies who, by accident, discover mind control, and they decide to do something different with it — they put it in a meditation app to rid ordinary people of their technological addiction. And they end up launching the most successful social media app on the planet and achieving a cult following. And after murder and mayhem, they have to ask themselves, just who’s in control here?
Mindset is hitting at the perfect time for me. There are a couple titles right now that I’m reading that, while different from this book, have a lot of the same tonal feels as this book. If you’re reading the masterpiece that is A Nice House on the Lake, and are enjoying the dark and creeping horror vibes from that story, you’re going to love Mindset.
In the story we meet a soon to be young entrepreneur who, in a desperate attempt to graduate from college, manages to convince a TA to let him finish up a missed lab test on the night before graduation. The test involves the impact that flashing lights and loud sounds have on the viewer, and to his surprise, the specific combination that hit him that evening seem to compel him to do something against his will. He quickly realizes that this pattern could be turned into an app that they could use to compel people to do whatever they want, and suddenly the ongoing narration that has broken up the book, an interview about a murder, comes clearly into focus.
And this, THIS, is why I love Kaplan’s work. He has a real knack for grounding sci-fi concepts with real world twists. With Port of Earth he took on alien invasions through corporates outsourcing, and with Mindset he takes on the old staple of mind control, but in a way that feels, sadly, all too real.
I can legitimately believe that an almost college drop out who stumbled on that kind of discovery would immediately attempt to both monetize and weaponize that technology. As a high school teacher by day, I have literally watched as teens will spend hours just mindlessly staring at their phones, endlessly scrolling and scrolling, giving apps and advertisers all the views they want. Heck, if anything, the idea of a tech company doing this seems too realistic, and I can’t help but wonder if there is actually any real fictional element to this story at all!
Adding to the greatness of this book is the artwork of John J. Pearson, whose work has a beautiful, surreal quality that reminds me a bit of The Department of Truth‘s Martin Simmonds, but definitely is its own thing. This kind of fine line, slightly trippy art is perfect for a story like this, and adds an ethereal quality to an already nightmarish book that kept me going back to relook at it again and again.
Mindset drops June 29th, so do yourself a favor and ask your LCS to pull you a copy. If you like great, mind bending sci-fi blended perfectly with awesome trippy art, this is going to be the book for you.
Until next time, stay safe!