Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt is a six-volume series that is a demanding, but worthwhile comic about a secret group that, were conspiracy fans to learn of it, they would not sleep soundly ever again. The group, Mind Management, has offices all over the world, and they take in “gifted” children and train them to become agents, depending upon their talents. However, some of the adults who are gifted who run the group are able to erase and manipulate memories, so even the agents do not always remember that they were agents at one point. Some agents are sleeper agents and do not even know it until they are “awakened” via a variety of means.
This set-up is confusing for the reader, because we, too, do not know who is an agent and who is not. Is our main character, the writer Meru, a new agent, an old agent, or a civilian? If she’s an agent, what is her power? And what is her past? Is she being honest with the reader? And even if she is being honest with us, perhaps her memory itself is unreliable. These types of questions are present throughout the narrative and are applicable to almost every character we meet.
The main plot of this book is based on the disbanding of Mind Management. When we start reading, Mind Management has been a defunct organization for a long time. For a variety of reasons, one of which is that there are sleeper agents still out in the field, the disbanding of the group is dangerous. In other words, we seem to be living in a world full of powerful agents with no one controlling them. How well do you know your neighbor? How well does your neighbor know herself? Is she a trained, secret assassin without even knowing it?
As we become immersed in the story, we learn that there are two opposing groups who are trying to put Mind Management back together. One group (or is it both of them?) is only doing so because the other one is. Who is responding to whom? More importantly, larger questions loom: Who was actually in charge of Mind Management to begin with? Was it a group without anybody in charge of it, a leaderless organization? And then there is the question that you cannot fully discount: Was Mind Management ever really disbanded? Even now are the two groups acting on commands given from some unknown head of the organization?
If you do not like being confused while reading, this book is not for you. And I admit that Kindt is an acquired taste. I didn’t like his other works at first, but this summer I reread two of his major graphic novels — Pistolwhip and Red Handed — and decided they were not only good, they were fantastic, intelligent, and engaging. Kindt is the comic book writer whom other comic books writers read. Kindt is able to surprise and intrigue and entertain those in the business. So, for all these reasons, Mind MGMT had my attention from the start. I not only knew that Kindt was going to have me working hard and guessing as I went along, I also knew that he would give me the answers if I were patient.
In other words, you need to trust me that you can trust Kindt. Do not give up when you start reading Mind MGMT. There’s a pay-off, I promise. Sometimes you just need to keep reading to get to answers you want more immediately than he is willing to give them. At other times, if something rings a bell, you need to flip back in the story to find that detail. I recommend reading the first four issues twice in a row, and then reading straight from issue five until the end. But all this careful reading makes sense: It is a graphic novel about conspiracies, and Kindt forces you to read the book like you suspect a conspiracy! Every detail matters and could be a clue. And if it is not a clue, it just might be a false clue put there on purpose.
When you are done, you will want to start rereading sections of the series if not the entire series. And when you do, you will begin to see the full brilliance of Kindt’s writing. Mind MGMT is like a murder mystery in that there are puzzles to figure out, but there are far more puzzles than a typical murder mystery. And, even better, knowing the solutions does not decrease your enjoyment of the work when you reread. Just the opposite.
Science Fiction fans will delight in this book for many reasons, but I will give one example that will give you an idea of the type of ideas Kindt is playing with: Aware that paranoia is a large part of the world he has created, Kindt rightly thinks of Philip K. Dick, who serves as a model for P. K. Verve, a science fiction author in the world of Mind MGMT. Verve plays a minor, but pivotal, role as the husband of the agent who leads the group opposing the one led by Meru. But the best part of Kindt’s use of PKD as a model for PKV is that the agent he marries is never sure whether PKV ever loved her or was simply forced to marry her because he is also an agent of Mind Management. The more she finds out, the more her paranoia grows. Truth should reduce paranoia, but Kindt, in the tradition of PKD, shows that it is often just the opposite.
In addition to the plot, the characters, and the themes, the art is brilliant. The watercolors are different from what is the convention of a typical comic book series. In fact, it is so unique that at first it kept pulling me out of the narrative. But I have come to love his artwork. As I finished this series, I realized I had become a fan of Matt Kindt, who I now believe is another of the great writer-artists working in the field. Mind MGMT is a work of genius.
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That was my view as well, as you'll see in my soon-to-post review