Mind MGMT #2
They say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, I say that is bullshit. By what else should we judge it? The cover of Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT issue two is in many ways a perfect exemplar of just how much a cover can convey about the comic contained beneath it. Upon first glance in the preview it seemed nothing special, a bald and brutalised man fills the page, expressionless. It’s not exactly an inspired image, nor does it even show the same stunning style as the interiors. Hell, i’ll be honest, I found it quite ugly upon first glance, but like the book itself this image bears closer inspection.
When you pick up a copy of the comic for yourself and take a second look at the cover you start to see things that had previously escaped your gaze, like the specificity of the wound on his cheeks (a hint for what is to come in the story) and the strange way that his scars seem to actually be saying something: things like ‘kill’, ‘hate’, ‘choke’ and ‘murder’. Then finally you notice that he’s not quite expressionless, that his eyes aren’t dead and his lips, they’re skewed up in something of a smile. It sends a shiver down your spine. This is the power of subliminal imagery, this is the magic of Mind MGMT.
I’ve only read this issue twice and that doesn’t feel like enough to really review it – I’ve glanced at that cover image upwards of sixty times now and I’m still constantly seeing new things within it – but I think i might save the third flip through for right before bed . To put that into proper context the only other comics that I have ever re-read are Watchmen and Mind MGMT #1; this isn’t something that I usually do, but I can’t help it, i’m obsessed. The problem is that this book really rewards that kind of obsession, requiring it if you want to get the greatest impact from each issue. I’m sure that it would read fine as a frantic action thriller were it on a proper page with the narration removed; it has action, tension and the thrilling revelations that you could ever need but the best parts of the book, those that make it so special are those hints at a larger story hidden in the scars as it were, hidden in plain sight.
See the page layout of this book is very peculiar, it’s printed as a field report and on each left margin is a little bit of Mind MGMT company policy that plays against what is occurring inside the panels. They speak of what a Mind MGMT agent should do in the given situation and it is fascinating to see in every instance who does and who doesn’t follow these rules. Bill Falls, the apparent CIA agent who appeared out of nowhere to save Meru from man on the cover at the end of the last issue, makes for the most interesting of these case studies; his actions start to sync more and more with MGMT protocol as the issue goes on, there is even a page of them in silent running that suggests communicating with your partner telepathically. This seems to suggest something about his character, but it also suggests something about the comic itself; it’s getting meta.
What differentiates this second installment from the first issue is the fact that it starts to introduce quite prominently the ideas of scripts, writing and playing of roles within them (Bold for Brain Embedded terms). It makes sense that if characters are having their minds controlled by MGMT agents then someone has to write the words they want them to speak or script the stories that they want them to enact just as an author does his characters; it could be a commentary on what it means to create or a compelling plot device for later issues, I don’t know but it does feel important. It’s obviously far too soon to tell why or what Kindt is trying to say through this theme but nevertheless it adds another interesting layer to the already awe-inspiringly ambiguous mythos of Mind MGMT thus far.
This meta-element also serves to re-open a question that I pondered last month, whether or not we’re being manipulated here, whether or not we’re the secret Mind MGMT agent, after all we’re reading the side notes, the Gray-matter paper glows for us. I thought that I was being so clever last month when I came to the realization that Meru was undergoing some sort of literal deja vu, that she was stuck in some sort of unending cycle, I thought that I had mastered the book but as it turns out that was never really the mystery. This second issue all but confirms the theory, stating prominently in several different locations that this is a loop. That it does this so early means that I’m not actually a step ahead, that i’m actually now even more lost than ever before; you can all but hear Kindt cackling at the cleverness; “The big questions will occur to [him] later.”
Cleverness. That really is the word for it. Mind MGMT is one of the cleverest books out there and for some that may seem a criticism, a turn off, but for me it is exactly what I want from a comic. Having a writer put all the pieces down and allowing you to try and arrange them into some kind of answer, be it right or wrong, then raising you up to the next level when you’re ready for it. Brendan Wright, the books editor, jokes in the letter section that “reading future issues should refine the abilities of sensitives such as yourself” and I actually think that he may well be right; the book is like a kind of brain training, a mental exercise that gives your mind the kind of buzz a brisk run does your body. It’s a comic so cerebral that it climbs inside your skull to show you the second half of its story, the one too strange for the page.