One of my favorite authors, a Scottish writer by the name of Alasdair Gray, once said of his incredible novel Lanark that, "I want [it] to be read in one order but eventually thought of in another." I always liked that concept of a measured authorial/reader/subject relationship, and I think it’s part of why I enjoy reading Mind MGMT so much. Perhaps because of Gray, each month, I approach reading Dark Horse Comics’ standout series in the same way; which is to say, by degree. I begin by flipping through the first few pages, taking in whatever visual flow writer and artist Matt Kindt chooses to assail us with that given issue. After that taster, I flip back and give it the thorough, focused read it deserves ... nay, demands. Then, like one might do in aid of digestion after a rich and complex meal, I set it down and walk away, only to repeat the process - sometimes days later - just before I write the review, this time capping it all off by reading the liner notes written up and down the book’s inner gutters. And I have to say that after my regimented initial reading, I was not a fan of Mind MGMT #23.
Or was I?
This issue sees the end of the “Magician” arc, one that has brought many paradigm shifts to the series, not least of which are the (temporary?) deaths of quite a few key Mind MGMT players. In it, The Eraser’s team is gaining ground against Meru’s, with the latter captured and her team all but completely decimated. While Duncan and Perrier facilitate a “tactical retreat” from the assorted immortals, magicians and mystic monks playing hypnotic records of naked ladies reading mind-bending poetry (as you do), Lyme and Dusty are provided the means of their own “escape.”
Meanwhile, Meru is trapped in the heart of the beast with her beloved Bill, both captives of The Eraser and subject to her mind-puncturing powers. Along the way, a couple of people die and any hope of victory for our heroes (or really the lesser of two supposed evils) is left dead and wet with blood, tears and that indefinable liquid that collects at the bottom of back alley dumpsters.
What I didn’t like about this book in that first reading was that it felt jumpy, or overly disjointed, and not in the way Mind MGMT usually (and quite pleasantly) jumbles your noodle. I knew that much of this could be attributed to a visual representation of The Eraser’s powers of forgetting, but the rest of it was cluttered with gaps, not to mention a five-page recap flourish that may be the first one of its kind from Kindt I didn’t love.
The story of Meru and Bill is one of the series’ emotional highlights for me, but this setup felt weak, rushed and visually unfinished, and the almost too choreographed defining moment it was weakening us for - while brutal and, especially after reading the issue’s epilogue, extremely sad - lacked the payoff that it should have had. Any retaliation certainly wasn’t handled with adequate fury from the wronged party, I thought.
However, my second, longer reading brought this issue back up for me. I still have a problem with some of its jumpiness and I maintain that the splash pages simply were not up to standard, but taking into account the entirety of this arc, as well as the revelatory and teasingly hopeful interview with Dusty along the inner spine (not to mention the corresponding scene at the end, wherein his true power is about to be revealed to the world), I found a renewed appreciation for this issue.
As such, this turned out to be a much more holistic reading of Mind MGMT, even more so than I’m used to with my regimented routine of approach. It is disjointed, yes, but for good reason, and it forces that Alasdair Gray analysis in a way that I really enjoy, particularly in Dusty and Bill’s stories, which weigh on this particular issue’s narrative well.
The art this issue from Kindt - apart from the questionable rose pedal spreads I mentioned earlier - was the classic yet ephemeral watercolor fluidity I’ve come to love about this series, with the black panel gaps a necessary evil to the storytelling process. I’ve said before that his style is an acquired taste, but just like coffee or cigarettes, it’s one that I find uniquely addictive.
Mind MGMT #23 wasn’t the best issue of this incredible Dark Horse book, and it took more time than usual to get me to appreciate its underpinnings. As always, though, it did get there in the end, albeit in the slightly more predictable and forgettable way that someone like The Eraser would approve of wholeheartedly.
Writer/Artist/Creator: Matt Kindt Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 6/25/14 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital