How can you surprise yourself? When you dream, everything that happens comes from your own brain, so how is it, asks Matt Kindt, you can surprise yourself in a dream? One of the many questions that arise when reading the collected Mind MGMT Volume 1, featuring issues 1-6. Who are Mind Management? Who is Henry Lyme? And just who is narrating anyway? These are key questions too.
The opening scene features unknown characters in a very violent situation, with narration asking questions relating to the mind. The story then jumps back two years with Flight 815. All 120 of its passengers and crew suffer an unexplained case of amnesia; although it soon becomes evidence that one passenger had gone missing – there was 121 people on that plane. Cut to true-crime author Meru, back in the present. She’s looking for a subject for her next book, and so decides to find out what happened on that flight. She heads of to interview the victims and ends up chasing a lead in Mexico. Her character appears to have more going than she is aware of herself. Eventually, she finds Lyme, who tells her his story; all the while the narration hinting at a wider mystery.
So Henry Lyme explains who Mind Management is, and how he came to work for them and why he caused all the people on Flight 815 to lose their memories. He explains what he is doing now and why he is ‘retired’. By now, we are several issues in to the collection. At the end of each of issue there is a Mind MGMT Case File, which is a short feature about an agent of the organisation and how they came to use their ability. Some of these characters are relevant, some might be in the future. They are fun little asides.
Mind MGMT is a curious beast. Kindt has created an intelligent and slightly off-kilter story that makes you think, and that is a good thing. It’s not pretentious, or weird just to shock, either. He has taken ideas from other stories – the shadowy government agency that recruits people with abilities; the rogue agent who just wants to be left alone but who causes more damage by his actions; the confused reporter trying to find about her subject and then learns truths about herself and more – and twisted them into something interesting and fresh. Kindt has had a varied career, working on comic books such as Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. and Sweet Tooth for DC, and Super Spy for Top Shelf. However, this book, published by Dark Horse, is clearly his baby. The overall design is excellent, from the intriguing Mind Management Field Notes around the edge of the pages to the layout of the pages, and visual storytelling. However, it is with the art that the comic falls down. I really like the design and the feel of the artwork; the characters and the panelling are good (although the men all have the same ‘look’ to them). The layout on page 34 was very nice indeed, for example. However, the style won’t be for everyone, and certainly not me. It has the appearance of child-like crayons drawn over washed-out watercolours, which gives quite a monotonous tone. It conflicts with the storyline and graphic violence. Maybe it was intentional, but for me it clashed to the point of distraction.
There is a lot to admire in Kindt’s collection. The characters are interesting enough to want to stick with them and the plot is more than just intriguing. There’s hints, especially with the narration, that there is even more going on than is revealed here. The flare and imagination of putting familiar tropes into this new scenario is enough to outweigh the distracting art, and will make me read more.
Reporter: Ian J Simpson