“Indoctrination #1 is a book that doesn’t make me feel good about myself or the times that fear overtakes me. I don’t read it and feel good about the world about me. But it’s a book that makes me confront certain truths about myself and the world. I’ll be picking up the next issue, even if it takes me a few days to get through it.”
Publisher: Z2 Comics
Writer: Michael Moreci
Artist: Matt Battaglia
Release Date: Wed, June 29, 2016
Whenever I’m going to review a comic, I typically read it one time for purely entertainment purposes, then give it a second pass to consider the bits I liked, the parts that maybe didn’t work, and matters of theme, mood, and overall message, if any. It’s a pretty expedient process and, on the whole, I don’t take more than a day between readings.
This wasn’t the case with Indoctrination #1. I can’t help but remember the first time I binge-watched True Detective—I came in to the HBO series late in the game, devouring the whole series on-demand. While most episodes were uncomfortable to watch at times, I usually powered through them because I was so eager to get to the next chapter. However, at one point late in the series, during episode seven of eight, my mental and emotional bandwidth was spent, both from the sheer intensity of the story and some of the revelations in that particular episode and how fucked up they were in an already fucked up tale. I let a good three to four days pass before I could again immerse myself into the McCounaghey/Harrelson tale.
The same with Indoctrination #1. Writer Michael Moreci and artist Matt Battaglia, in just their first chapter, have spun a yarn that left me emotionally reeling and spent. Even now, thinking back to the color palette that Battaglia used in conjunction with the words that poured of Moreci’s characters, leaves a lump in my throat that reminds me why I couldn’t look at the issue for a second pass for a few days thereafter.
The better part of that unease comes from the conceit of the comic, distilled into the tagline of Indoctrination #1: How do you kill an idea? Two FBI agents are hit in the face with just that dilemma, as they try to discern how a foreign combatant on United States soil, a compromised CIA agent, and a murder by ritual are tied together. How, indeed, do you lasso an idea, cure and obliterate it, when ideas aren’t held by just one person and can multiply like a virus?
Why Indoctrination #1—and its influences found in True Detective and the movie Seven—work so well is because the creators seem to acknowledge that while the killer or terrorist or other Black Hat is who the White Hats are chasing, ideas and beliefs are really what are moving the stories’ antagonists. Moreci presents protagonists and their opposite numbers as not folks who think they wear shiny armor or evilly twirl their mustaches, but as people who believe in what they’re doing.
Moreci taps into that, as well as the current zeitgeist as to how many view America’s war on terror. Terror is ephemeral and has an impermanence about it that’s hard to pin down. Stopping terror is not a one-and-done action, but an act of constant vigilance that requires nuance and an understanding what motivates a terrorist group to do what they do. An acknowledgment of that never-ending battle is reflected in the characters’ dialogue, which has both an urgency and a weariness about it that left me appropriately ill. Ill from a wave of unexpected hopelessness, ill from the magnitude of fear that infects how we interact with one another.
Battaglia runs with that unease, using sketchy forms to mirror the uncertainty Moreci brings to the table. The wide shots he employs give the story a cinematic scope, but also, paradoxically, made me claustrophobic, even moreso than the tight panels he used. Maybe it comes from growing up in the mountains, but vast plains make me feel exposed, and I suspect that Battaglia is pulling from that exposure to comment on our own openness to danger.
Indoctrination #1 is a book that doesn’t make me feel good about myself or the times that fear overtakes me. I don’t read it and feel good about the world about me. But it’s a book that makes me confront certain truths about myself and the world. I’ll be picking up the next issue, even if it takes me a few days to get through it.
Indoctrination #1, written by Michael Moreci with Matt Battaglia on art, is on sale now from Z2 Comics.
From the official issue description:
How do you kill an idea? Across the dusty plains of America’s southwest, a deadly storm is brewing. A string of murders portend the sinister designs of an infamous terrorist to bring about the end times. Two FBI agents have heeded the signs, and only their rogue actions, aided by a potentially untrustworthy expatriate with deep ties to the terrorist, can push this darkness back. Indoctrination explores America’s terrifying underbelly-of death cults and sleeper cells, serial killers and apocalyptic nightmares.