Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt is simply one of the best comic book series ever created in my opinion. It takes some commitment to read since it is thirty-six issues long, collected in three omnibus editions with twelve issues making up each part. However, the time spent is worth it. Originally published monthly from 2012 to 2015, Mind MGMT is in the crime fiction genre, specifically the spy subgenre, and the spies involved have special powers, but in no way is it in the superhero genre. The powers the spies have are mental in nature, and those powers work in different ways, sometimes quite amazing, and at other times apparently somewhat mundane (like the character who can see fifteen minutes into the future).
What starts out as a seemingly simple story turns into a sprawling conspiracy of great complexity. The premise seems simple: The main character, Meru, is a writer of true, unsolved crimes, and she has one successful book published. But it has been years since she wrote it, and her editor is pressuring her to come up with a new project. Mind MGMT is the story of her seeking out that new idea by researching the mysterious and unsolved Flight 815 incident. Meru sees the news reporting the anniversary of Flight 815, which is about how all the people on the plane, passengers and flight attendants and pilots, had their minds completely wiped of all memories mid-flight. That meant the pilots no longer knew why they were in the plane or how to fly one. They had to be given directions over the radio from a flight crew on the ground. Passengers did not recognize family members sitting next to them, and the flight attendants had no idea what was going on. Mass hysteria ensued on the flight, and when they disembarked, all passengers were accounted for except for one, who mysteriously disappeared and no one could remember who s/he was. The people on board Flight 815 were collected by loved ones and taken home, even though they no longer remembered any family or friends.
Meru embarks on a trip to follow clues that ultimately will unravel the mystery for her and for us, but the solutions to the mystery are not revealed all at once, and that is much of the pleasure of this comic book series. Kindt teases us with little bits and pieces of information as Meru follows the breadcrumbs to the person who will tell her the truth. Unfortunately, this person, and some of the others connected to him in Mind MGMT, have powers, and some of those powers include changing the perceptions and memories of those with whom they come in contact. So, by following Meru, we are kept in the dark regarding much of what is happening. Can we trust our eyes? Are the images in the panels reality or illusion? Many questions are raised: What is Mind MGMT, what are its goals, who is involved with the company/program/agency, what powers do they have, and what do they want?
I hesitate to say much more about the plot, because I do not want to spoil any of the fun. I can say, however, that the series gives the reader surprise after surprise and includes a large cast of interesting and intriguing characters, all of whom have different motivations and purposes. The forces of good go up against the forces of evil, but the book is not simplistic since we never fully know who is truly good and truly evil. In fact, such extreme notions are called into question: Those we are rooting for turn out to have pasts that are problematic for us when we find out about them, and the motives of their enemies are not as clear-cut evil as they are first made out to be. Meru, and the reader, will question whose side to take far into the story.
Kindt’s art is fantastic: It is rough in a way, but beautiful, with watercolors making for a comic that does not look like the usual comic book art we might expect. He mainly uses small panels, so it is simply amazing how many pictures he has created for these thirty-six issues. He does use the occasional one- or two-page image, and when those are used, the effect is impressively dramatic. These omnibus editions are important to purchase rather than older collections, because they include pages only previously seen in the individually published monthly issues. Those pages include brief stories about agents in Mind MGMT in the inside cover of the issues and the last page, usually a fake Mind MGMT-created advertisement. The purpose of these advertisements are explained in the story. Finally, I will add that Kindt creatively includes some meta-comics in the story: There are monks in Mind MGMT who are tasked with recording all of history, and they seem to make record of these histories using sequential art.
I cannot speak highly enough of this series. One of the aspects of Mind MGMT that I love most is how much it begs to be read more than once. In the past few years, I have read through the entire series four times, and every time I enjoy it and get more out of it. The small details and clues that Kindt includes in what is essentially an international spy story make a detective out of the reader who pieces together all the clues in the process of reading. The complaints I have heard about this series are simply by those who have said it was confusing and stopped reading it. Ultimately, almost every question is answered, but the comic does demand something of the reader. It is not a light read. But it is a worthwhile read, and when you experience this comic, you know you are engaged with an excellent work of art made for mature readers. If this were a novel, it would be a famous bestseller praised by critics. Unfortunately, since it is a comic book, few people have heard of this work of genius. But work of genius it unquestionably is. If you have any love of the art of comics, do not pass this series up, and if you have any interest in complex spy stories, you will appreciate this series even if you are not used to reading comics. Mind MGMT is a five-star masterpiece.