Book of the Month
What did the
Artist: Matt Kindt
Size: 200 pages
A staunch defender of TV’s Lost in its middle seasons, I’ve yet to see the series’ final episodes. It’s possible I never will. One weekly viewing party missed due to a head cold, the next skipped in favor of reading a book. By the third week I probably realized I’d lost interest for good. Not a messy breakup. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t disappointed exactly. We simply stopped calling. It was as if my passion for that particular bundle of puzzles and romances simply vanished in the night.
I hope that never happens with Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT. It too chronicles a fated Flight 815, upon which 121 souls boarded and only 120 came off in the end, nearly all of those amnesiacs. Passengers and crew all robbed of their memories, skills acquired, lives lived. All of it lost somewhere in the clouds, never to return. Missing from that manifest, a man, a cipher, a riddle called Henry Lyme.
On the back cover, Lyme resides in a snapshot, his face concealed behind a furious pool of crosshatched ink, an identity redacted by the entire contents of a Bic pen. The entire volume, a sumptuous hardcover of heavy papers, presents itself as a dossier. Blue print and guidelines not unlike those found on a comic artist’s over-sized draft boards spell out coded messages and offer relevant guidelines from a clandestine bureau’s field guide, from advise for communicating with fellow agents during high speed pursuit in the field (avoid verbal cues in favor of telepathic nudges) to the proper duration of rest an operative should afford herself following a large-scale encounter (1-3 days).
And what of this clandestine bureau? Mind MGMT operatives once travelled the globe negotiating pipeline deals and erasing massacres from the public consciousness through nimble feats of Kenobiesque suggestion or carefully designed and worded ads for household cleaners in the weekend circulars. By manipulating mind and memory, they shaped the global economy and fortified national interests. If things got messy in the process, it wasn’t back to the drawing board for the bureau. It meant tabula rasa for us.
Henry Lyme, we learn, did a lot of the shaping and manipulating for Mind MGMT, all until he began to question how conscious he was of his efforts. Where his powers stopped and fate began. Where his personal life met and meshed with his professional duties. Whether he could trust anyone, especially himself.
A young woman named Meru, a celebrated crime writer specializing in bizarre events, finds herself wound up in the curious case of Flight 815, with the mystery of Henry Lyme, and a globe-spanning chase. Kindt plays with the chronology of the events, nestling easter eggs throughout, often positioning pivotal characters right under our noses in a trippy game of Where’s Waldo. Even following his reveal, Lyme stands as the most enigmatic character in comics since Jake Ellis, a riddle made all the more captivating by the dream-like quality of the narrative and its series of questionably reliable narrators.
Perhaps even more fascinating than Lyme or Meru are the interstitial portraits of other Mind MGMT operatives, presented in the final two pages of each issue. Here we meet monks who bear witness to and record the objective history of civilization, free of bias and revision. We meet a girl with a knack for understanding dolphins and a man with the uncanny ability to design irresistible propaganda in the guise of banal print advertisements. At first it all seems ancillary, a series of extras designed to flesh out the world and lend color to the faceless Mind MGMT organization. Then those characters start popping up in the main threads of the adventure.
Kindt’s meticulous but seemingly effortless, even casual, world-building augments a blockbuster romp pinballing through exotic locales like a haunting Mexican village to Zanzibar, to China. Meru and the people she encounters remain constantly on the move, forever hunted by two relentless Immortals, a male and female assassin with a supernatural ability to roll with the punches. By the time the volume’s concluded, we find further layers of intrigue in a retroactive mistrust in what we’ve been told and what we think we’ve just seen. It’s no cheap trick. It’s the yellow wallpaper. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.
Though Kindt’s aesthetic won’t win over every reader, his watercolors lend perfectly to the story’s themes and tone, that murky milieu of a dream upon waking. If it’s not as refined a look as mainstream comics, it’s far more emotive, far more expressive. I can’t imagine this story under anyone else’s brush.
Mind MGMT reminds me of those days when new symbols and whispered phrases demanded careful, fervent study and caused friends to bolt from their seats and point at the television set. Mind MGMT doesn’t simply entertain. It engages. It’s that active reading experience that spurs you to your feet, demands you flip back to that past scene, hold the book up to the mirror in the off chance that this next puzzle simply asks for a different perspective. It’s that mystery that lives with you beyond the final page.
It suddenly occurs to me that between this and February’s The One Trick Rip-Off & Deep Cuts, I’m now two for two in selecting Books of the Month involving Jedi mind tricks. So I’m feeling even more paranoid than usual.
For more on Mind MGMT, Vol. 01: The Manager, check out Paul and Ryan’s discussion on our latest iFanboy Booksplode Podcast.
These are not the droids you’re looking for.