James Pruett's and Federico de Luca's MINDBENDER is an entrancing visual work of art with a heartfelt and fantastically-paced narrative.
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Coming straight from Scout Comics is the incredibly illustrated and masterfully woven tale MINDBENDER by James Pruett and Federico de Luca. In the first volume, which collects issues #1-6, MINDBENDER sends us on an ethereal journey. And it all starts with the tragic beginnings of Alexander Oberman.

Unable to control his reality-warping and dimension-hopping powers as a child, Alexander accidentally causes both his parents’ deaths. Thus, Alexander’s mind plunges into the recesses of a different plane of reality. He ages physically but withdraws himself from the world without speaking a word for 16 years.

Until he finally “wakes up,” that is. And, unsurprisingly, reality is just as distressing as he remembered.

Into the Unknown

At the psychiatric hospital where Alexander lives, records state that his parents died from an accident with some exploding gas canisters at the fair the Oberman family attended. Fast forward to sixteen years later — Alexander has mentally withdrawn himself from the world to gain a semblance of his crumbling sanity.

To Alexander’s therapist’s knowledge, that is all the hospital has filed on his incident. However, even the hospital has some secrets they aren’t sharing with the public. Eventually, his therapist finally makes a breakthrough. She dives into the torrential cosmic chaos that composes his mental state and awakens Alexander from his catatonic state.

Image courtesy of Scout Comics.

Alexander regains himself, and both his body and mental state are conscious to the tangible world that envelops him. Problem is? His mind is trying to keep up and anchor itself to match his physical age. After using his powers to escape the institution, he wants to find his parents and make his world right again, whatever “right” even means anymore to an outsider in the real world.

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A Cosmic Kaleidoscope

Image courtesy of Scout Comics.

The most captivating element of MINDBENDER is De Luca’s artwork throughout the issues in the volume. Sometimes I took longer to go through the pages just to flip back or stare at the panels. De Luca’s creative interpretation of such an otherworldly landscape with all these doors and cosmic structures is mesmerizing. I appreciate that most of the text-heavy scenes in the volume usually appear in other pages. Anytime Alexander traverses the realm, it’s often less text-packed. Otherwise, the text might have cluttered the pages and robbed the focus from these flawlessly illustrated panels.

There’s a lot of purples to go around. And blue. Pink too. It’s like those colorful coffee frappes that were trending last year but in comic form, not that I’m complaining one bit. There is so much attention to detail in these panels, which demonstrates the dedication of De Luca’s effort to make MINDBENDER come to life. De Luca guides us through MINDBENDER’s colorful pages so we too can experience the complexities of Alexander’s mind and powers.

Image courtesy of Scout Comics.

Benjamin Buttoning (Or Something Similar)

Alexander doesn’t start out elderly, but he doesn’t start off young either. His mind was stilted after his parent’s death. After he “awakens,” he has a lot of growing up to do in a short amount of time. In his twenties and on the run, Alexander’s endearing traits derive from his lapses of childhood curiosity and innocence. He becomes three-dimensional as a character, rather than someone who is constantly of a victim of unfavorable circumstances. While he is a victim, the story would have lost its appealing charm if Alexander was a brooding “Woe is Me” archetype.

Image courtesy of Scout Comics.

Alexander looks forward to McDonald’s and his Happy Meal. He’s the kid we all were, and you can admit it too. You were disappointed as much as he was when you got the bland-looking toy in your kids’ meal box. He gets himself an outfit from a bondage shop because he truly could not know any better, but at least he’s styling and profiling.

Alexander is quick to realize the errors of his actions (such as initially scaring off his therapist) and apologizes to her. He learns that his powers, something he feared would bring nothing but harm, can do the world some good. The first volume demonstrates his gradual understanding of the world around him in spite of his sixteen-year setback.

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Perhaps the only downside to the story is the lack of depth from the other characters. Their backgrounds, their emotions, their thoughts (and for some, their affiliation with Alexander) remain ambiguous. But since it’s only Volume One, there’s a chance their characterization will be drawn out further in the following issues.

Final Thoughts on MINDBENDER

The aesthetic of MINDBENDER was enough to snatch my attention. However, there are times when the impressive art on a cover does not mirror the content. To my relief, MINDBENDER does not disappoint, either visually or through the narrative! With the art entrancing your eyes, the story immerses your empathy into the sad and rather lonely world of Alexander Oberman. This is a guy — or rather, a child in a man’s body — who is struggling to grip the weight of reality, his own mind, and the repercussions his uncontrolled powers has on others.

If anything, Alexander just wants a cool McDonald’s toy. A Happy Meal too. And, of course, his family back, as well as a break. But there’s no rest for someone like Oberman. The ending to the first volume of MINDBENDER is up to interpretation, but this story is a delightfully positive yet bittersweet ride.

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