My review of Mind MGMT #21 was supposed to be my last hurrah in my coverage of this series. Not to draw back the curtain too much here, but I contacted Dustin and told him I thought it was time to move along and let someone else ride; not because I don’t still love this book, but because I thought it was my time to move on, to get out. Yet here I am. Like a victim of the so-called “Ad Man,” I am helplessly drawn to its pages, seemingly in spite of my own volition. This, of course, only confirms my belief that series creator, writer and artist Matt Kindt is most assuredly a member of his own fictional international organization of mental meddlers. After all, as one of his characters openly asks this issue, “Do you know anyone that has ever been able to quit Mind Management?” To which I would have to echo the reply which follows:
This issue takes a look back at the life of the ex-agent known as The Magician, or rather, her formative days within the ... I won’t say “infancy” of Mind Management; more like its adolescence. Set 30 years ago in Germany, we see her erstwhile team of operatives descending upon Berlin in a bid to cause chaos and to shape the geopolitical landscape in a city historically riddled with bastardized order. And, of course, it’s great.
Clearly one of the best things about this comic is watching Mind Management agents unfold their vast array of imaginative talents on the unwilling and/or unknowing, or each other; but as with everything in this book, it’s what you (or the characters themselves) don’t see that is all the more haunting, like the effects those powers have on the unintended.
Watching The Magician’s altruistic arrogance subside like an old illusion is the same stuff we’ve seen from characters like Meru, Lyme and the others, but it serves to prove just how deep-seeded and old Mind Management is, while at the same time watching the developments of their underhanded tactics in practice. I love what they do with the experimental cinema of the day, for example, and how it was used subversively as tools for the Management, just as the agents themselves were, and indeed still are.
Admittedly, not much more is illuminated here, and while there are enough snippets and cameos within the issue to draw into the main story, this issue does feel like an extended version of what we usually get at the beginning and end of most others - those little looks back into the history of Mind Management. I like how they are folding them into the main story, and Kindt’s regular slight-of-hand is great, but there was something missing from it this time; not an urgency, so much as a lack to drive the overall narrative. Of course, knowing this series, it was probably just something I missed and will pick up on in further readings.
Kindt’s art here continues to be sublime, and anyone who (impossibly) thinks his visual direction is without nuance because of its hyper-stylized “basic” look simply needs to watch The Magician’s face closely this issue, and not just in the grander overtures Kindt makes to strip away her facade. Much like what I mentioned above, it’s his subtler brushstrokes that really have all the power; the silent trick before the “snap,” as it were.
The same is true for the ubiquitous writing along the side of the book, which serves as the story’s liner notes. This time, they come from a very real book published in 1882 entitled How to Become a Magician, Containing a Grand Assortment of Magical Illusions as Performed by the Leading Magicians and Wizards of the Day, which you can read for free online here: http://publicdomainreview.org/collections/how-to-become-a-magician-1882/. You may note one or two subtle yet interesting edits to the text. I love this usage of meta-narrative, especially in a story like this, which points so many fingers toward its own past tricks.
As I said above, I feel like I’m becoming the victim of some or another kind of subliminal advertising with Mind MGMT, trapped in a road hypnosis from which I simply can’t pull over or away, and despite where it takes me or where the road eventually leads, I know I’ll be here for the crash.
Writer/Artist/Creator: Matt Kindt Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Date: 5/28/14 Format: Limited-Series, Print/Digital