I’m pretty hesitant to write this review, not because I didn’t love the absolute snot out of Mind MGMT, but because I kind of don’t want to tell you what it’s about. In a way, you have to approach this thing, not ironically, like an amnesiac - completely blank, a tabula rasa on which to be rewritten. In so doing, by the end of it, you leave room for your mind to be truly changed. Still, this is a review, and never let it be said that any of the Comic Bastards is less than accommodating, particularly when there’s some solid-gold head-fuckery about. With that ... in mind... here are the cliffnotes for those who want them:
Almost every single one of the 120 passengers and crew of Flight 815 is suddenly struck with near-complete amnesia; all, that is, apart from one - a Mr. Henry Lyme, who suddenly, impossibly, has vanished. Two years later, a young, semi-successful yet still-aspiring true-crime writer named Meru needs to pay her overdue ... everything, so she decides to take as the subject of her next book the so-called Amnesia Flight, and in the process, vows to find the elusive Lyme.
Her journey begins in Mexico, where an entire town has been stricken with an uncontrollable (and fatal) urge to create a very specific type of pottery, the design of which is actually native to another village ... in fucking Zanzibar! Meru thinks, and rightfully so, that this shit right here is straight-up bananas, and decides to pursue the lead, which puts her into contact with both a CIA agent named BIll Falls and a tenacious pair of assassins called “The Immortals,” which, it turns out, is not just a clever name.
Meru’s trip down the proverbial rabbit hole continues, through a woman who meticulously catalogues the minutiae of her every day, and toward “talking dolphins” in Hong Kong ... which I’m fairly certain is bathroom code for one of those prostitudinous ping-pong shows. That’s China, right? Wait, is that racist? Shit. (Mental note: delete that later, just in case. Nobody will ever know!)
Apparently, these talking dolphins are too legit to quit, and lead Meru and Bill to a town called Guangzhou, where peril, no doubt, awaits. Fucking dolphins, man. This is why I only buy cans of tuna-free dolphin, not the other way around. Oh, and what happens? The immortals catch up and pop bitches in the head. Fuck YOU, Flipper!
On the upshot, Meru finally ends her trip, and succeeds in her self-imposed mission in finding Henry Lyme, who, in no short order, explains how an entire flight of passengers could share history’s biggest collective brain fart, as well as how men could seemingly be impervious to death. Moreover, we learn about the titular clandestine agency unknown to the world as Mind MGMT, and how exactly their varied operatives have been winning hearts and (controlling) minds to shape the world as they see fit.
However, it is Lyme’s personal journey through this system that provides the true fulcrum around which swings Mind MGMT’s purpose. Again, I refuse to get into it too much, mostly because I’m not a fucking dolphin and I don’t blow shit, but needless to say, it is a not-so-happy tale about a man who can control anything, except, perhaps, himself.
Both peppered throughout and serving as a bookend are specific stories (and “negative issues”) about the various goings-on at and employees of Mind MGMT, all of which, in some way or another, fold back into the story proper. I loved pouring through the case files in particular, learning, for example, about “The Futurist,” whose ability to “instantly and simultaneously read the minds of every living creature within a five-mile radius” allows him quasi-precognitive abilities. I bet his midi-chlorian count was off the fucking charts! As someone who dabbles professionally in copyrighting, I also loved the story of “The Ad Man,” who controls the world through the subtext of text.
Presented almost as urban myths, these stories are subtly accentuated by directions for Mind MGMT field operatives written along the spine of the inside pages. Elements like these successfully, yet quietly, knead this book into an ever-more elaborate shape, sometimes without the reader even noticing. It’s quite the jedi mind trick, honestly, and each one serves as a phenomenal mental brick in an extensive and deeply-excavated universe build.
Y’know, I’m beginning to think there’s a reason why Matt Kindt has won or been nominated for so many awards in his body of work, and why Mind MGMT itself has become an industry darling and is being turned into a Ridley Scott-produced movie: it’s really goddamn good. Speaking at least for myself, the first thing you notice is the way Kindt marries his narrative, with the art and text colliding together like a multi-course, meal, with dishes paired to their opposite humor. The story and the art often don’t match, but not in a bad way. What they do is collude with one another. They coalesce, but often contradict, effectively and quite blissfully throwing off the equilibrium of the reader.
In fact, everything, from the apparently omniscient narration in the first act of the book, to the undulating plot itself, furiously scribbles and scrambles this impending sense of mystery that forces you, alongside Meru, to plod confusingly onward through the story, even though it may mean losing yourself in the end. In the same way, the structure of Mind MGMT’s story proves to be as labyrinthine as the folds of the brain, and Kindt does an exceptional job of weaving us through it, with a methodical yet hurried pace that flits between the slow raise of the knife and the quick flash of its plunge.
In terms of the art ... I have to admit that, for me, it took some getting used to; I’m usually a fan of greater visually intricacy, rather than the sketchy path Kindt’s style takes. Here, however, it didn’t take me long to realize that this is the ideal representation of this particular story on the page. The art feels like a memory that you’re trying to remember and forget at the same time - sketchy, unrefined; at the same time static, but drenched in an almost rubbery, yet atrophied movement. I don’t know, it’s clearly hard for me to explain, but I enjoy it. A lot.
If you have been waiting to check out Mind MGMT, then rejoice! As a completed first act, this hardcover is the tight package you’ve been waiting for, and its story does everything but disappoint. It’s a shame that this series (as was recently announced here on ComicBastards.com) is coming to a close in its 36th issue, but this is the best way to cut your teeth on its sharp story and pierce your frontal lobe with its excruciating brilliance.
Writer/Artist/Creator: Matt Kindt Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $19.99 Release Date: 04/10/2013