Mandala is an odd book. I haven’t read a comic quite like it before. It feels like a blend of assorted mysticism and the Illuminatus! Trilogy. The chief conflict in the comic is between the techno-magic corporation that is clearly evil and thirteen mostly just magic revolutionaries. There is more than a healthy dose of paranoia in this comic, with a vast conspiracy spanning dimensions and incorporating oppressive magics and oppressive technology.
The writing in this comic has a lot to do. Stuart Moore’s script covers two dimensions, a non-dimension that ties them together, as well as the nexus of all dimensions. It also introduces more than a dozen good guys and even more bad guys. The fact that it manages this at all is impressive; the fact that it works is kind of crazy. Unfortunately, there are some strong stereotypes on display here. I don’t think it’s anything malicious, but the wise leader of the group is an old Native American man who fights with tomahawks. There is also a Russian man called Bear who is big, hairy, and strong. Mostly, this seems like a convenient shortcut. You know the old Indian is going to be wise. You know the big Russian is going to be strong. This isn’t a problem really, but it is a little off-putting.
Bruce Zick’s art is tremendously interesting. It feels like Jack Kirby with a little bit of Frank Miller thrown in for good measure. I honestly don’t think any other style would have worked with this comic book. The weirdness of the story is exaggerated by the art in a way that Kirby would have appreciated. (I don’t need to mention that I have never met Jack Kirby.) Like Kirby’s best, the backgrounds here are ludicrously detailed, which makes all the world building much more effective. Whether it is a hanging tree on the side of a cliff or a horde of demons waging war outside the White House, there is a richness and detail that sells the whole thing.
This isn’t a comic that I would recommend for everyone, but if you are looking for a weird, mystical grudge match with the beleaguered forces of Good and Freedom facing off with the forces of Oppression and Tyranny, this one might just fit the bill. There are some problems to be sure, but this is a comic with a real point of view, and that is definitely worth something.
Three Technomancer Revolutionaries out of Five