Review: Mind MGMT #20

Most issues of Mind MGMT could be described, on some level at least, as what the K.I.D.S. these days call “meta,” meaning that the series plays significantly on its own abstract existential nature. This time, however, I think it reaches a new postmodern apex, and not just as a story about clandestine agents. With structural elements, like the text which frames the pages of almost every issue in this Dark Horse original series, there has long been a distinctive nod that this book was flirting with being self-aware, but the end of this issue all but confirms its existence as an ongoing written thing, while at the same time maintaining its fourth wall; it’s deft, delightful and pretty fucking genius.

The plot of this one sees powerful mental manipulator Henry and pseudo-clairvoyant Duncan meet up with a guy named Big Jim, who, as his name implies, is a bit of a giant. He is also, of course, a former agent of Mind Management, though one that was taken on more out of pity than anything else.

His story as an outcast through a few different societal levels is at the same time endearing and harrowing, not to mention familiar to anyone who has had the fortune of reading Kindt’s amazing book, 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man. If you haven’t read it, you should do that.

MIND MGMT #20 CoverAs important as Big Jim’s story is, in and of itself, so too are the interactions he shares with his ill-proportioned strong-man best friend, Chip (who looks like he jerks off WAY too much) and a terrifying character who I’m looking forward to seeing more of in the future: the “Right-Hand Men,” mute and murderous conjoined twins. Awesome.

As you might expect, these stories lead our split team of ex-agents (those on the side of Meru, anyway) into great peril, but that’s not what makes this issue so stand-out. The true fun happens when we find out the identity of the unseen “narrator” (for lack of a better word, with perhaps “author” or “biographer” being better ones) of the story, and indeed how we find out that person is doing the telling.

Once more, Matt Kindt proves to be a master of making you read a story one way and forcing you to think about it in another. To me, there is no better success in written fiction than that - and this guy makes it look so damn easy, like a magician, an escape artist or a circus ringleader.

In terms of art, this is the same grand yet simple calibre to which regular readers will have grown accustomed, and I honestly believe Kindt is setting new standards of visual consistency. I know that sounds weird in a book that is this stylized, but once you acquire a taste for his work, here and in his other books, and realize what to look for in it, you quickly learn to appreciate how good he is at maintaining his singular style. I’ve said it before, but I honestly can’t imagine Mind MGMT looking any other way.

I should mention that this issue, like the one that preceded it, mostly forgoes the type along the margins for full-page bleeds. I’m not sure what ominous portent such a decision implies, but for some reason it’s a bit jarring after seeing the borders so regularly embellished in almost everything leading up to this issue. And that’s a compliment.

Of course, it’s those small inclusions and exclusions that always keep you on your toes, that make this an exercise in traversing the “meta.” Kindt must be, himself, a Mind Management operative, able to get inside your head with the story he’s written while simultaneously eliciting you to write your own to fill in the gaps he teases. It’s a clever trick, and one from which I just can’t see myself ever tiring.

Score: 5/5

Writer/Artist: Matt Kindt Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 3/26/14