In the post-9/11 world, law enforcement agencies have enhanced discretion to spy on people within the borders of the USA.
Whether you fall on the side that condones or opposes practices like wire-tapping and record searches, there's one good thing about it all – at least the government can't intercept people's thoughts.
Until now, that is.
In Mindfield, the Aspen mini-series by writer J.T. Krul and artist Alex Konat that begins later this year, the U.S. government has developed a team of enlightened agents who have telepathic powers and use them to track down terrorists.
"They are the ultimate form of thought police whose job is to cover the nation and hunt down terrorist threats within the borders and keep the country safe." Krul told Newsarama at San Diego Comic-Con, where the six-issue mini-series was announced. "The CIA develops these agents by giving them these hallucinogenic drugs they developed. And for the public, it's a sense of, 'we don't care what they're doing to them,' because in their mind, it's all for the greater good. But not everything turns out to be good for the agents."
Although the story is one of espionage and action, Krul said there is a lot of focus on the characters in the series. "It's along the lines of 24 or The Bourne Identity," Krul said, describing the type of intrigue and action that will be featured in Mindfield. "But it's also got that element where, in The Bourne Identity, Jason Bourne had a lot of issues he was dealing with in trying to figure out what was going on. And in that respect, Mindfield is similar to that as well, in that these agents are doing their job when they need to do it, but it takes an enormous toll on them. So it's almost like a post-traumatic stress disorder."
Krul, who is also writing this month's Blackest Night: Titans for DC Comics, said Mindfield is a story he's been thinking about ever since he discovered details of a real government program called MK-Ultra. "The government really did use LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs to experiment on their own agents and spies they would capture to interrogate them," Krul explained. "It was mainly used as a truth serum. They were hoping to break spies, to get what secrets they carried and find out what information they had and who they were working for. But they also experimented with their own people, and sometimes unbeknownst to the government. So you had a group of scientists, for example, who were on a retreat, and they spiked their drinks, and they had hallucinogenic trips. And they didn't know why. A lot of them, the trips kind of carried with them and they were never the same again and it ruined lives."
"So I took that with me and thought about how the world is so aware now of the terrorist threat within your borders," he continued. "It seems like, moreso now, the threat that people fear is not so much about giant nation-states setting up an all-out war. There is that to an extent. But the real threat seems to be the fear that there are these fringe elements out there – religious extremists or environmental extremists – that are hell-bent on making their purpose known and are trying to make change in the world though any means necessary, including hurting others. So that's where the idea came from."
Krul said the choice to work with Konat came from the artist's ability to draw in a realistic style. "He's a great young artist who did some work for DC on the Gotham Gazette story during Battle for the Cowl. He's a tremendous talent with a bright future," Krul said. "He's got a very realistic style which matches with what the tone of the story is. He's got an incredible attention to detail. I normally try to avoid comparing styles and saying how one artist is like another, but Alex's stuff is reminiscent of Gary Frank, and I think that's a good thing."
"I don't think it's really a sense where we are thinking, OK, we don't have a Western book, so let's do a Western book. But there's definitely a sense that we don't want to be a one-trick pony," Krul said. "Fathom and Soulfire were such a great foundation. They were just incredible worlds that Mike created. And to be able to take those and explore new corners of those universes is an amazing opportunity. But there's this sense that we want to find new stories to tell. We want to develop the best ideas we can develop. And in time, you'll have projects like Dellec and Executive Assistant: Iris and now Mindfield."