Zeb Larson reviews Indoctrination #1…
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.
Michael Moreci is kind of a pessimistic writer. If you’ve followed Roche Limit or Burning Fields, those two series are representative of the way he turns his skeptical gaze on the limits inherent to human ambition and artifice, as well as the unintended consequences of American power abroad. Indoctrination seems to be a combination of those two books’ approaches. Indoctrination is a series that is fundamentally about ideology, and the ways that ideology can force people into doing things that are monstrous. It echoes bits of True Detective, not only in the visual aspects of its opening panels, but in the thematic territory of chasing a monster.
The book revolves around four different people: Denton Wilkins, Georgia Torres, Trent Daniels, and Leonard Huxum. A murderer and cult leader named Sahir is killing people, namely the children of prominent Americans. With no other way of catching the man responsible, the four people are going to have to work together to try and get close to a man that none of them can find by themselves, but whether they can deal with him and what they find is
If you liked True Detective’s first season, this might be the series for you. The opening shots are very, very reminiscent of that series, right down to the southern roots and the posed corpse. However, True Detective did not try to delve into why men would be so violent to women and children (I think misogyny was at the root of much of that violence, but I don’t think Pizzolatto was trying to develop that idea). Indoctrination, on the other hand, wants to try and dive right into the middle of that, and the book lays the blame for much of the world’s violence at the feet of ideology. Ideas which make people small and utopias the end goal are inherently violent.
Based on the themes of the book, you might come away from this thinking that Moreci is writing a book about radical Islam. It’s certainly true that that gets more attention on the page, but there are a few hints that Moreci is looking beyond the violence in the Islamic State or in other radical groups. Huxum’s character seems blind to the fact that what he’s defending is an ideology all of its own; the fact that it’s more a familiar ideology doesn’t make it any less pernicious, and willing to use him as a pawn for its own good. Are there ways that the American experiment is its own ideological experiment, one which can be just as vicious?
Matt Kibbe’s mini-essay at the end of the book is an interesting choice and is in this same vein. What Kibbe writes is definitely in lines with the themes of the book, namely the fact that ideologies on both the political left and right were both inordinately destructive during the 20th century. Kibbe is explicitly writing about Islamic radicalism, and he doesn’t mention the American side of things. That being said, Kibbe is a libertarian thinker whose latest project and website is deeply critical of American foreign policy. When he’s talking about bad ideology and good ideology, his litmus test is whatever doesn’t reduce our lives to data points and subjugates us to some “higher” agenda.
It’s in this that the book has some real potential to actually play with ideas. It’s easy to write a book that condemns the San Bernadino shooters, or the Paris attacks, or Omar Mateen. Such a book though doesn’t provide any real answers beyond decrying bad people, which feels good but solves very little. Bad people don’t think they’re the bad guys; they think they’re providing some kind of solution or justice. Understanding why they do what they do, and making it clear through a book like Indoctrination, is a step toward understanding why people need ideologies like this in the first place.
Personally, I share Moreci’s deep skepticism of power, ideology, and projects which flatten individuals as moral creatures and make them into small cogs or gears in a greater machine. What I hope this book does in subsequent issues is to start to dig into why these utopian visions have such a strong appeal, and more to the point, where the blind spots are. There’s a quote from John Maynard Keynes in this book about practical men who think they’re intellectually independent but are actually acting out the ideas of a defunct economist. That doesn’t just apply to Muslims reading Sayyid Qutb. These aren’t easy questions, and there are no easy answers, but making sense of the madness of today’s world will be impossible without them. Doing that, Indoctrination has a very real possibility of being better than True Detective.
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