Review: Mind MGMT #16

I’m gonna go ahead and venture to say that Mind MGMT #16 is one of, if not THE most dynamic issues of this phenomenal series to date. If, like me and the Bastards, you’ve been a firm follower of this, arguably the comic world’s most idiosyncratic book, you’ll know that’s saying a lot. However, leave it to boundlessly talented Matt Kindt to exceed even himself in his creator-owned work. Issue 16 tells the story of the woman known enigmatically as The Eraser: the last administrative vestige of Mind Management’s now otherwise headless organization, one with the capability of wiping other operatives’ minds. We haven’t seen much of the character thus far, with Kindt deploying a sort of narrative veil over her, but that has only succeeded in making her that much more intriguing.

Now, sometimes, when the backstory of the big “monster” is revealed, it can mute or muddle the effect that character has on the reader. Luckily for us, however, this exploration succeeds in providing the depth and delightful obfuscation with which this book has already become inexorably linked.

Mind MGMT #16 CoverShunning a harsh reality beset by familial turmoil by jumping into fantasy and sci-fi books, Julianne (as she is called in flashbacks) finds particular solace in the works of an author named Philip K. Verve, an obvious nod to a real-world writer with a similar name. However, as their relationship progresses, so too do the widening gaps in her memory, populated as they are by people with sketched or ill-formed faces, like they had been rubbed out almost completely from her recollection.

It quickly becomes clear that Verve is a member of Mind Management, or worse, one of their opposite number in the still only vaguely discussed Russian equivalent, The Matryoshkas. What makes this particular issue so dynamic, however, isn’t necessarily that interplay, though to watch on as the aloof Verve’s face is purposefully hidden either behind pipe smoke or rough, unfinished lines of art, is a visual feast in and of itself.

Still, what really got me about Mind MGMT #16 was the intrusion Kindt allows of the text on the page. Usually relegated to the gutters, this time, the excerpts from one of Verve’s sci-fi novels spills into the main story, threading itself between panels at times, and at others, almost swallowing the graphic elements of the book up entirely. It’s an impressively used device in a story of a woman whose life is not only being rubbed out, but is increasingly being lost to the realm of “stranger than fiction.”

When the final conflict of the issue comes, it does so thanks to one especially well-lettered page, wherein a sound effect could be either “thunk” or “think,” depending on your interpretation. And that, of course, is what makes this series so damn great: it’s still open to one’s own analysis and demands a deeper involvement of its readers, where even something so simple as a lettering choice necessitates further inspection. In short, nothing comes easy in Mind MGMT, which again is one of its insidious charms.

Like every other issue so far, Mind MGMT #16 has it all: a mental kaleidoscope of impossible happenstance wrapped in a mystery rife with personal anguish, paranoia, mistaken identity and, of course, murder. But here the pages drip with excessive text, almost revealing the second skin of the story that rests just beneath its surface. And it isn’t just a trick of light; as he has done in issues just previous, Kindt incorporates this backstory into the main narrative itself, revealing this aside as a fundamental building block to the overall story.

Similarly effective is the two-page “Mind MGMT Enemy Agents” profile postscript, which this time takes a short yet still revelatory look at an unfortunate sleeper agent left behind in the still ongoing war of minds between the world’s two top agencies.

Once again, Kindt’s flurry of art and measured yet frenetic writing style is an outright joy to experience, leaving you, its reader, with two equally powerful yet distinctive aches: one in the head, and another that can only be described as a covetous pang for more.

Score: 5/5

Writer/Artist/Creator: Matt Kindt Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/23/13