Posted by: John Kane on September 7, 2013
So, I got a chunk of time and I devoted it to this comic. I hope you enjoy reading this but even more I hope you enjoy the comic in question.
Issues 8 – 12 (The Futurist parts 2 – 6)
Story, Art and Cover by MATT KINDT
Digital Production CLAY JANES
Design MATT KINDT with ADAM GRANO
Assistant editor IAN TUCKER
Editor BRENDAN WRIGHT
Publisher MIKE RICHARDSON
MIND MGMTTM © 2013 MATT KINDT
Dark Horse Comics Inc., $3.99 each
MIND MGMT is a monthly periodical comic book published by Dark Horse. It is my favourite regular arrival in any care package I receive from my LCS. And yet I have been largely silent about it after an initial burst of typically irritating hyperbolic and grammatically challenged enthusiasm. This is because it literally just stopped arriving. (Literally because literally means literally; literally does not mean figuratively. Literally.) Despite all the horror stories one hears about postmen, quarries and pension cheques it seemed unlikely that my erstwhile deliverer of pizza menus, demands for money and paper based parental chiding had been losing them in transit. (Losing rather than loosing, because it seemed unlikely he had been setting them free like tagged owls) Now, because I have a pretty laissez-faire attitude to my LCS it took me a while to cotton on. Also, at some point in any interaction with my LCS we usually fall out because I say unkind things about Brian Bendis or Mark Millar both of whom are dear to the heart of my comic procuring Billy Batson look-a-like. Displaying an enormous amount of restraint I remained civil and so following an exchange between myself and my LCS the logjam has been cleared and I ended up with a big lump of MIND MGMT to pore over. (I did not pour over it because I am not a sentient liquid.)
As I said before I dazzled you with an outburst of pedantic fireworks MIND MGMT is my favourite regular comical periodical. This statement should not be confused with any claims that MIND MGMT is the best periodical comic currently being produced. Part of maturity is realising that because you like something doesn’t mean it is good. I like lots of awful things but I don’t pretend they are good; I just like them, er, because. MIND MGMT isn’t awful MIND MGMT is…but that bit’s at the end. Suspense there, I’m going for suspense. It is entirely possible that I like MIND MGMT and MIND MGMT is also good. Let’s see…
I won’t go on about the story MIND MGMT is telling (it is a good story; a conspiracy story) but I will go on about how MIND MGMT is telling that story. Because what MIND MGMT is really about, the real pleasure of MIND MGMT, is a man who is using the medium of comics to its fullest. Or at least the fullest that I am currently exposing myself to. Like a Millhaven butcher Matt Kindt uses every part of the animal. At the heart of every conspiracy story lurks a dependency on the revelation of the connectedness of previously thought unconnected things. The formal thematic fun starts with the very covers of each issue of MIND MGMT. Indeed each of the covers of these six (and also issue 7, the first part of The Futurist arc, which arrived so long ago it has become part of the papery lining of my garage and was thus unavailable) contain the cover of the previous issue in a a kind of Matryoshka doll effect. The cover of 7 is a poster which appears on a lamppost on 8; the cover of 8 appears as an album cover on 9; the cover of 9 appears as a TV image on 10; the cover of 10 appears on a pile of magazines on 11; the cover of 11 appears in a flurry of incriminatingly revelatory papers on 12. None of these appear forced; they all appear organic; they all make sense. Which is the key to conviction in any conspiracy story.
The inside front cover isn’t an advert (there are no adverts for MIND MGMT except for fake adverts; later. Suspense there again.) it is a single page piece introducing an outlandish character or concept. There are many outlandish characters and concepts in MIND MGMT and the more Matt Kindt throws at the reader the more the reader’s natural resistance to outlandishness is eroded. Like the application of a pleasant pumice stone to the horny warts of the reader’s disbelief. Be forewarned, be forearmed, these may appear fun things of fluff to add to the patchwork but this may not be the case. They may also foreshadow concepts or characters which may rise to later prominence in the series. This is a distinct possibility. It has happened before, it may happen again. At the very least they are a fun bit of world building and probably more honest than that Seamonkeys advert.
The next 22 pages form the bulk of the issue; the narrative guts if you will. The pages of MIND MGMT are not like the pages of other comics. Every page taking place in the narrative present is presented as a page of comic art. Art complete with the editorial blue lines which mandate the format of such submissions. As though the events we are witnessing are a report submitted after the fact to an organisation which requires all reports to be submitted in the form of a sequential graphic narrative; a comic. For the first part of this sequence of issues the left hand margin of these pages is torn away and replaced by a second narrative. This second narrative is Premeditated: A True Crime Novel. In the world of MIND MGMT the word true should be distrusted at all turns. It is written by one of the characters about events involving other characters. In this way it again builds the MIND MGMT world’s past even as the reader witnesses the MIND MGMT present. Although the MIND MGMT present is also the MIND MGMT past, as we witness events retroactively. Later issues return us to the form established in the initial MIND MGMT issues with the left hand side restored to the conceit of the blue line guidance in the form of MIND MGMT FIELD GUIDE extracts. Both novel extracts and guidance function in the same way: at times these literal marginalia appear to comment upon, reinforce or undermine the events on the page which they border. This may be intentional, it may also be the result of the human mind’s natural inclination to seek patterns in chaos and its remarkable facility to do so where none exist. It is not unlikely that MIND MGMT knows this. Where there is clarity there is also confusion; this also is the hallmark of successful conspiracy stories. In issue 12 the margin text becomes a warning pink transforming into DISBANDING PROTOCOL. Shit is kicking off big time story wise at this point and the comic itself seems to respond in kind. MIND MGMT is self-aware.
I will not dwell on the actual contents of the story pages as they are where the bulk of your initial pleasure will be focused upon reading these issues. Suffice it to say that they are event packed, intelligent and move with a fierce propulsion. In fact so fierce is the propulsion that Kindt’s art, art so sketchy and rushed looking in comparison to the static lifelessness of much on the stands, is a totally appropriate form for this content. The water colouring effects are a bold and evocative move and like all Kindt’s artistic hallmarks allow for speed of production with no loss of communicative efficacy. It is a very heavy style and if it isn’t to the reader’s taste then that’s that. But what initially appears rough and imprecise does reveal itself to be suggestive of a great number of emotional subtleties. It’s here that I realise I’m making MIND MGMT appear a bit dry and perhaps more of a slog than a pleasure. This failure is mine. MIND MGMT has an enormous sense of fun despite the bleak and serious surface of its happenings. One of the great attractions of MIND MGMT is its very playfulness. Playfulness of form (which is what I’m mostly getting at with this piece) but also playfulness of content. Jokes, I’m talking about jokes there. Horror, pain, loss, unresponsive genitals all these things are part of the human condition but so is humour. MIND MGMT doesn’t do quips as such, but it does do jokes. God save me from quips. My favourite joke was page 9 of issue 11. Here in one panel Kindt effectively summarises and good-naturedly parodies the Oni series THE SIXTH GUN. Also of note is the mind expansion sequence on page 2 of issue 12 where what seems to be a reference to Campbell & Moore’s comics masterpiece FROM HELL appears. There may well be references and connections I missed. I don’t doubt it. That’s what re-reading is for. MIND MGMT invites re-reading like notions that Jack Kirby was just a work-for-hire stooge at 1960s Marvel invite scorn. MIND MGMT is a comic which appears to be conscious of other comics. Playful, like I said.
Initially pages 23 and 24 appear to be a more fulsome return to the inside front cover concept. Here a deeper look at a tangential character is occasioned. It is a character who has appeared before but the backups are a neat sleight of hand. They do build the character and inform previous events with greater significance but, well, the biggest development in the series thus far seemed to me to occur here. It’s in this sequence that the true nature of a main character is revealed and the fact that Kindt used the simplest visual trick in the book to misdirect me so successfully gave me a warm feeling. When someone tricks you and you ares o impressed you want to thank them it isn’t just a trick. It’s magic. MIND MGMT is comics magic.
The back cover of MIND MGMT is always an advert but the back cover of MIND MGMT is never an advert. It is an advert which is not an advert. The advert will be connected to the contents of the issue you have read and functions as a final bit of playful worldbuilding. It is an advert for itself. Even at the last, right up to the last page MIND MGMT is revelling in what it is – a comic.
I enjoy the story MIND MGMT is telling but more than that I enjoy the way MIND MGMT is telling me that story. I am not unaware that Matt Kindt’s periodical pleasure has successfully attracted attention from the televisiual media. That’s nice, I hope that works out for him but MIND MGMT started out as a comic and it’s as a comic I’m concerned with it. And, having read it and having thought about it I have to give MIND MGMT my highest accolade. MIND MGMT innovates on every page and it makes those innovations look obvious in retrospect. That’s genius. The innovations are integral to the story rather than empty tricks laid atop bland doggerel in order to create an impression of substance where none exists. I have not enjoyed a monthly periodical comic, I have not admired a mothly periodical comic, as much as MIND MGMT since AMERICAN FLAGG! I am in awe of MIND MGMT. I am in awe of Matt Kindt. MIND MGMT is EXCELLENT!
MIND MGMT is many things and it will be many more but first and foremost MIND MGMT is – COMICS!!!