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Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery
by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
DC Comics 
1996 / 2012 
Book Reviews
Reviewed by David Bey, 9/12/2013

Don’t let the leopard-print short-shorts fool you! Four-part comic book miniseries Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery (reprinted at long last in a handsome hardcover “deluxe” edition) is one of the most sophisticated representations of a drug trip ever written or drawn.

In a world on the brink of collapse, the last of the comic book superheroes—a half-naked cartoon strongman with psychic muscles struggles to solve the mystery of his long-vanished comrade’s uncanny disappearance.

At the same time in an alternate reality, an unnamed rock singer is dying of a drug overdose in the rain. He’s taken everything in the house, including quite a bit of LSD, and he’s talking on a mobile phone to the unseen voice on the other end of a suicide prevention hotline. All he wants to talk about are comic books.

Meanwhile, in a third version of reality, a legion of all-powerful super-beings faced with inescapable annihilation devise a plan to survive death by projecting themselves into another universe as fictional characters.

Naturally, as the story progresses the walls between worlds begin to break down, culminating in collision with Total Reality and emotional catharsis in which there are “no more barriers between the real and the imaginary”. If the world of psychedelic comic books dished out awards, Flex Mentallo would win “Best Comic Book Depiction of an Acid Trip” and “Best Narrative Depiction of Successful Psychedelic Therapy”. Insofar as Flex Mentallo is about the use of non-ordinary states of consciousness to heal psychic trauma and transmute pain and fear into wonder, it is a story about psychedelic psychotherapy. Insofar as the structure of the miniseries mirrors and discusses the history of superhero comic books, Flex Mentallo is, well… about comic books.

For years Scottish author Grant Morrison has been using the medium of superhero comics to saturate his readership with an all-out assault on ordinary reality. His comics read like catalogs of ultra-hip esoterica and cutting-edge visionary speculation. Additionally, Frank Quitely’s illustrations for Flex Mentallo are the clearest, most precise realizations of fantastic reality since Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland. Together they cut an astounding swath across the limits of what is conventionally possible to represent, telling a story that’s both formally intriguing and genuinely moving.

Originally Published In : Through the Four-Color Doors of Perception: Psychedelic Gems of the Comic Book Genre, Erowid Extracts #23.

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