Review – MK Ultra: Sex, Drugs and the CIA Vol. 1 (Leshne Press)

MK Ultra – The Most Vile US Government Experiment Ever Performed

Most have never even heard of Project MK Ultra, except perhaps in a passing reference to the band Muse’s song of the same name. MK Ultra is a US Government project which was headed by the CIA and assessed the use of various drugs such as LSD. LSD was used for mind control, information-gathering, and psychological torture. These experiments were carried out at times on unwitting civilian subjects and these tests mostly had horrific and tragic outcomes. The project officially lasted from 1953 until 1973. Details regarding this horrific and disgusting government-funded torture were unearthed in 1975. This was during a widespread investigation into illicit CIA affairs, conducted by Congress.


Review - MK Ultra : Sex, Drugs and the CIA Vol 1 (Leshne Press)Writers Brandon Beckner and Scot Sampila, along with the superb artistic skill of Stewart Kenneth Moore, have crafted a fascinating and disturbing narrative around these events.  It begins with the discovery of LSD in Sandoz laboratories in Switzerland. We witness the drug bust which began the investigation into the project. We travel with a young journalist who is uncovering the story and encounter a former agent who begins to divulge horrific background detail and his involvement in the beginnings of the project.

This is a narrative which sweeps the reader away into a captivating story which is impossible to stop. I found myself reading through the entire first volume in one solid sitting. I wanted to learn more about this project. Who created it? How did it start? I had an almost macabre fascination to watch the effects of the drugs take hold. Watching civilians begin to lose their rationality and hallucinate in group settings was a disturbing and arresting experience.

The writing style is commendable. It’s a difficult subject matter to craft into a cohesive narrative. It’s difficult to introduce the concepts to those who are experiencing this world for the first time. But Beckner and Sampila accomplish this with ease and at no time did I feel lost while following the admittedly complex plot. It’s a very satisfying experience. We find the reporter character Seymour to be a cipher for our own experiences reading through the story.  As he uncovers more information, we find that our reaction mostly mirrors his own. In that way the protagonist is likable and we can empathize with his dilemmas.


Review - MK Ultra : Sex, Drugs and the CIA Vol 1 (Leshne Press)The artist Stewart Kenneth Moore brings a form of sensible realism to some of the strangest events in the story. The art style during the plot exposition is full of detail and fresh.  There are extensive nods to popular culture, such as the Beatles and Adam West’s Batman. Moore is telling the story with the writers and he is injecting energy into the narrative making the overall art style unique.

Particular praise to the visual journey Moore takes us on when depicting the effects of the drugs.  This is some of the most visually descriptive and detailed depiction of one of the most difficult areas of the narrative to portray.  How can you portray the effects of LSD in a manner which feels real, gains empathy with the reader observing the effects and yet illustrates the powerful, horrific, and at times nonsensical imagery associated with the drug?  From demonstrations of paranoia to beautifully bold psychedelic imagery, these panels blaze into your cerebellum and you feel the effects of the drugs, almost by proxy, due to their power and intensity.


Review - MK Ultra : Sex, Drugs and the CIA Vol 1 (Leshne Press)I enjoyed this roller-coaster story which seeks to uncover a hidden history of brainwashing and abuse sanctioned by the US Government. It’s a chilling subject matter. At appropriate times, the authors have injected humour to ensure that the bleak nature of the subject doesn’t overwhelm the readership. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in ‘conspiracy theories’/facts. Also, those fascinated by the history of the intelligence agencies, MK Ultra itself, and drug culture.

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About the author

Dr. Chris McAuley

Chris McAuley is a relatively new Nerd, having began his writing career reviewing old copies of 2000AD, he quickly progressed to interviewing major alumni of the comic book industry including Pat Mills, Grant Morrison, Glenn Fabry. Writing acclaimed reviews and features on Comic books and video games, he is also a Test Reader for Millsverse.

His background is in theology and it is in this arena which he gained his PHD, believing that story is crucial to human beings and that most modern cultural narrative experiences are driven from the ancient and the mythological.

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