Friday, April 4, 2014

PREVIEW: Mandala

Created by: The Thirteen
Written by: Stuart Moore
Artwork by: Bruce Zick
Published: Dark Horse
Review by: Art Bee

“The seed of revolution is repression.” - Woodrow Wilson

“Do you want to change the world?
Then change yourself first.” - Sri Chinmoy

Throughout world history, revolutions have shaped nations and toppled governments, but some of the greatest revolutions have taken place in movies and literature. Probably the most famous and beloved revolutions of all time has occurred on the silver screen with George Lucas' Star Wars, where his seminal work took us to “a galaxy far, far away”. Another well known revolution, from the film industry, took place within the bounds of our own world in The Matrix. In literature, Frank Herbert's 1965 novel, Dune, took us to a desert planet in which the Kwisatz Haderach leads the Fremen nation of Arrakis in a revolution against Emporer Shaddam IV and the Harkonnens. These are only a few examples, but in May 2014, there is a new one coming in Mandala.

I have had the pleasure to preview a sample of Mandala that will be contained in the 256 page trade paperback graphic novel. The story is phenomenal, well conceived, and well plotted. Bring on Mandala.

Stuart Moore and The Thirteen introduce us to a future in which the human race is reduced to a fraction of its former glory. It all begins with our governments. A covert surveillance system is launched to control and repress the entire human population. Biochips are secretly implanted into the head of each person through a vaccine, which everyone is willing to get to protect themselves. These biochips allow the masses to be controlled by a global network surveillance system known as GRID. Unfortunately this system is humanity's downfall. A race known as Serpents come and use GRID to enslave all humans, whom are used for cruel sport and food. The Serpents are lead by a god-like leader named, Natasmia.

In this dystopian background, there is a revolution rising up against the Serpents, and they are led by an elite group of people known as “The Thirteen.” Each one of these leaders is the head of a clan, and each clan has its own animal totem and philosophy of changing the world.

The story is centered on Michael Morningstar, one of the leaders of the revolution, and Mary Lozen Many Colors, whom has “an eerie knack for survival”. Michael and Mary both possess an awakened higher form that allows them to do incredible things. Even though the preview did not reveal much of anything about Mary's higher form, Michael Morningstar morphs into a six-armed, winged half-demon capable of dealing out punishment on an epic level with a wicked looking sword that seems to come to him with his change. Michael and Mary are described in the preview as destined to be together, because their paths continually cross.

At the beginning of the preview, Michael is being interrogated and tortured by a man named Kane, who is trying to learn the identities of the other twelve rebel leaders. The torture allows Michael's higher form to manifest, which ends very badly for Kane and his crew. Michael escapes, flying away on his new-found wings, but his higher form dissipates allowing him to fall into the ocean. Mary Lozen finds and fishes Michael out of the water, and they head to the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. Once there, they are sent back in time by Mary's grandfather, Charlie Many Colors, to instigate change by finding “The Thirteen” and starting the revolution in the past to bring down GRID. They need “The Thirteen” to be awakened.

I absolutely love the science fiction feel of this story, and I wish I had more of it to read right now. Unfortunately, I have to wait until the graphic novel comes out like everyone else. Stuart Moore has done a really fantastic job on his presentation of the story-line in this preview, and I would expect that the finished product will be absolutely exquisite. Just with the little bit I have read, the massive back-story and ideology can easily be felt. Star Wars would never have been popular if Lucas had not designed the backdrop of races, worlds, governments, religions, and social circles. It is the minutia of a story’s Universe that is addicting, not the story itself many times.

The artwork of this story is very different to what I am used to seeing, and I am still fighting with myself about whether I like it or not. Bruce Zick uses an incredible style in his use of color in setting the mood of the panels and pages, and his palate is absolutely gorgeous. Zick incorporates great detail in many of his backgrounds leading the reader to realize that the setting is almost as important as the story. The artwork does seem to get sloppy in some panels, and one of my biggest peeves in comic books is inconsistency. Overall, I would have to say that the artwork has both its strengths and weaknesses.

The two details I loved the most of what I saw in this preview book were the use of Native American culture and the FBI posters. My admiration of the Native Americans has always fueled my curiosity about them, and it is nice that elements of their culture is used throughout this piece. For instance, Charlie Many Colors resides on the Hopi Indian Reservation, where he meets with Michael and Mary before sending them back in time. Totems and other Native American objects are incorporated as well as other cultural images. The FBI wanted posters at the center of the preview depict Michael and Mary and provide some great information about them as well as paint them with some realism. Both are being sought due to their connections with the “terrorist group known as The Thirteen”. The sketches on the wanted posters are very well detailed, and I would almost believe these were real if they were not in a comic book.

Hands down this should be something that should be bought by anyone interested in revolutionary stories like Star Wars, The Matrix, V for Vendetta, Dune, etc. You can find their facebook page at www.facebook.com/enterthemandala. They also have a website set up to join for discussions about the clans and other topics at www.enterthemandala.com. The book is not as pricey as others at $24.99, but I am thinking it will be worth it. Dark Horse seems to have a winner in Mandala. I know I am waking up. Are you awake?
Sri Chakra represents the holographic nature of you and the world.

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