Mandala (review)

Posted on 09 July 2014 by Mike Dell

A mixture of “Native American culture, ancient religions, and conspiracy theories” by Stuart Moore & Bruce Zick.

The serpent goddess Natasmia has enslaved humanity, subjugating mankind through a worldwide techno-surveillance network called the GRID. Michael Morningstar and his group of revolutionaries are all that’s standing between Natasmia and total domination. While their fellow humans remain ignorant, rendered powerless due to mind-altering chips implanted in their brains, Morningstar and his allies use spirituality and esoteric knowledge to wage war against their reptilian overlords. But can they wake up humanity before it’s too late?

Mandala from Dark Horse comics isn’t a traditional superhero adventure. Co-creator Albion Moonlight Butters, who clearly won the name lottery, teamed with his business partner Jon Shanker to sound their own warning for humanity.

“Our shared vision is to open up a new world and mythology for the audience, but the comic is really the beginning of a much larger story,” Butters said, “which involves people waking up to how many elements of the GRID are real right now.”

Mandala draws upon Native American culture, ancient religions, and conspiracy theories to craft a tale eerily similar to our shared reality. Replace the serpent goddess and the brain implants with corrupt governments and corporate mainstream media, and the similarities become unmistakable. Wanton materialism, celebrity culture, and endless entertainment options have distracted us, enabling the wealthy elite to consolidate power and manipulate history. We’ve all become prisoners, yet most can’t even see the bars. Morningstar and his allies, known collectively as The Thirteen, represent mankind’s need for spiritual redemption. Elevating one’s consciousness is the only way to escape the illusion.

Butters grew up reading comics like Strange Tales, and he always admired Alan Moore’s ability to “integrate magic and wisdom in a mind-opening story.” Mandala continues the tradition.

“I was personally inspired to get involved because of my background in the history of religion, and how even the most far-out aspects of their story can open doors in people’s consciousness,” Butters said. “We like to call Mandala ‘spi-fi’, or ‘spiritual fiction.'”

Writer Stuart Moore and illustrator Bruce Zick are the creative team that made Butters and Shanker’s vision a reality. Moore, known for such Marvel titles as Wolverine Noir and X-Men Origins, scripted the challenging tale, which blends spiritual mythology with multiple dimensions and timeline jumping. Zick, a Disney and Pixar concept artist famous for his work on Thor, depicts the action in a distinctive, cartoonish style loaded with sharp lines and heavy blacks.

Despite its lofty goals, Mandala is never heavy-handed or preachy. Moore prevents the noble intentions from hindering the story and leaves plenty of room for classic fight scenes, like when Morningstar transforms into a demonic beast hell-bent for revenge. Zick’s art supplies the perfect atmosphere, blending dark, sinister themes with hopeful idealism.

Dark Horse published Mandala in a six-issue collection, but the story will continue beyond the initial offering. The Mandala team has also partnered with Kevin J. Foxe, the executive producer of The Blair Witch Project, to make the comic into a digital film series. Regardless of format, the Mandala message remains the same: it’s time to wake up.

“The Buddha taught 84,000 different flavors of the Dharma because he said that there were 84,000 different kinds of psychological types,” Butters said. “But in essence, I’d say it starts with oneself and waking up to how much more there is in the universe than we even consider, our potential for infinite growth, and our responsibility to do something. This moment in history is pivotal, perhaps more than ever before. It is the real story, and we are the real heroes. That’s the real mission of the comic, to share that idea.”



Review by Mike Dell.

Originally posted on July 6, 2014.