You know what I like best about reviewing this book? Matt Kindt really makes you work for it. It is called Mind MGMT, after all, and even its title lets you know what you’re getting into. Nothing about this series - particularly the satisfaction that results after each installment’s reading - comes easily, which is honestly half the reason I like it so much. Even still, when this series takes one of its tangential asides (as is the case here), it does make it especially hard to keep up with or grasp in general. With that in mind, I won’t lie to you, issue 13 is quite possibly the series’ most confusing yet. But does that necessarily mean it will eventually become known as one of its best?
As I mentioned, this issue takes a divergence from the main storyline, which has otherwise followed Henry Lyme, his newly knowledgeable (and not very happy about it) protege-of-sorts in Meru and their erstwhile cast of mentally-powered characters, pitted in direct opposition against the remaining Mind MGMT operatives, led ostensibly by a woman known as The Eraser. Issue 13, however, focuses on a remote, small town and the remote, small minds that live there. Of course, as with literally every damn thing in this book, nothing is what it initially appears to be.
As the banal existences of the town’s inhabitants begin to sour thanks to small yet substantially strange things afoot - such as missing personal effects and even missing people - we soon discover that the whole thing is nothing more than a facade, which, by its end, cracks and shatters thanks to an imbedded operative who has been itching to “wake up” from her rural imprisonment.
It makes sense for Kindt to take a new “train of thought,” so to speak, given that he just finished wrapping up his latest arc in issue 12, and herein, he seems to be doing a bit of setup, focusing on establishing what will most likely prove to be a robust stable of new characters. In other words, both sides of the mental divide of the currently defunct Mind MGMT are gearing up for war, and this “Megan” appears to be the latest weapon that both factions are after. This is all my own personal conjecture, mind you, since nothing is expressly said in this book about what the “actual” fuck is going on here.
As per usual, the mini-cartoons in the footers of the first half of the book afford some small measure of explanation, but only by way of the book’s usual subliminal suggestion. We are told briefly, for example, about “The Housewife Five” - sleeper agents, we’re told, who require an intricate, advertorial and audio/visual system of awakening, of which Megan is almost surely apart.
Perhaps more interestingly, however, are the field guide notes running up along the side of the pages. Instead of being written for Mind MGMT operatives, these are targeted toward an organization called Matryoshkas, which, being the real name of those Russian dolls that hide smaller clones just beneath each one’s surface, is probably the best image for a clandestine, Hydra-esque organization I’ve ever seen. I believe the last time we heard of this organization - though not by name, so this is just a guess - was back in Mind MGMT -1, with the exciting yet ill-fated adventures of the operative known as Bear. Added to this the inclusion of the “Enemy Agents” profile of The Ice Men at the end of the book, this sets up some very intriguing conflict that I very much look forward to seeing come to a head leading into the series’ issue 36 finale.
Still, I have to admit that I felt a bit lost this issue, and not just because it’s such a different avenue for the story to take, plot-wise. We only see a scant connection to the overarching story, and really that only appears at the end of the book. Still, I have every confidence that it will mean a great deal in the end, and that Kindt will sew together the various threads being frayed here in subsequent issues; however, as a stand-alone, this one was perhaps too disconnected for me, without benefitting from the in-depth and elaborate mental latticework Kindt has proven to be so dextrous at applying eslewhere.
On the plus side, this issue reminded me of a much more subdued version of “24 Hours,” that story in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes arc, wherein Doctor Destiny uses the dream ruby, and some solid-gold mind fuckery, to kill a few arguably nice people in a diner in some very twisted ways. People say that comics don’t do horror well, but I would argue that this Sandman issue in particular proves them wrong. Mind MGMT issue 13 may not have the grotesque, subversive punch, but it does resound with the same tainted quaintness, and for that alone, this issue stands out.
Issue 13 may not be the series’ best for me, but even with the caveat that it exists without its usual framework, it’s still a worthwhile aside in one of comics’ most endearing instant classics.
Writer/Artist/Creator: Matt Kindt
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: 7/24/13