Review: 'MIND MGMT Volume One: The Manager' Successfully Rewrites RealityA comic review article by: Paul Brian McCoy
MIND MGMT is the first solo monthly comic from Harvey and Eisner Award nominated graphic novelist Matt Kindt. It tells the tale of Meru, a true crime writer with a massive case of writer's block. She's running out of money, but hits upon a great idea for her next book -- investigating the celebrated case of mass amnesia on Flight 815 two years earlier. The search for answers eventually leads her around the world on the trail of the mysterious Henry Lyme and the discovery of a secret network of psychic spies, talking dolphins, and immortal assassins.
Well, the dolphins don't play a huge role, but they're integral to the plot. And who doesn't love talking dolphins? Even if dolphins are bullying gangs of rapists and murderers in real life.
Volume One collects the first six issues, plus the zero issue that fleshes out the world and background characters of MIND MGMT. And while it does not include the short stories printed on the inside covers of the monthly releases, it does still have the MIND MGMT Field Guide in the margins of nearly every page. These provide a very interesting and at times entertaining bit of insight into the world Kindt has created here. Especially toward the end of the collection as the entries are psychically hijacked.
It also sports an introduction from Damon Lindelof (Lost, Cowboys & Aliens, Prometheus), who seems genuinely excited about the work that Kindt is doing here. I assume that it was Lindelof's enthusiasm that led to Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox's optioning of the material for a film adaptation. The intro captures an energy that leads a new reader to expect something fairly different from what's actually on display, though. That's exacerbated by the cover copy that claims that people are rewriting reality, when actually what's going on is the manipulation of memory on a massive scale -- thus Amnesia Flight 815 -- and that makes for a much more interesting, and more grounded story than I went into my reading expecting.
That grounding works both for and against the overall story, though. It will definitely lend itself to translation into film, with its realistic action and creepy parceling out of strange events and occurrences. However, as the story goes on, the depth and breadth expands to incorporate a wide variety of strange psychic talents -- as well as the aforementioned talking dolphins -- taking it into more and more bizarre, science-fictiony areas.
Normally, I wouldn't have any problem with this, especially as it contains echoes of similar stories I love in films like DePalma's The Fury, Cronenberg's Scanners, and even Paul McGuigan's Push, but for some reason it didn't resonate. The storytelling is solid, although I didn't really care for the twist ending. If this were the end of the story, it would be a fine ending, but with the series continuing, it feels a little too gimmicky and easy. I understand that Kindt wanted the first arc to stand on its own just in case the series didn't catch on, but I think it undercuts the impact that the ending should have had.
But that's a minor issue, really. The rest of the story is strong enough that I have no doubt that Kindt's three-year plan for MIND MGMT will have a satisfying payoff. And given the revelations at the end of the first arc, the series has the potential to expand into something huge and amazing. Yet, when I was finished reading the first time, I wasn't fully engaged and ultimately wasn't sure how to evaluate the book as a whole.
After some soul-searching, I think my problem was that I just didn't care for Kindt's art. The pen and ink art is rough and kind of epitomizes what comes to mind when I think of "indie" comics. It is far and away from your standard DC or Marvel "house" style -- a brief look at Kindt's run on Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. will attest to that if you're not already familiar -- and is ideally suited for the noir or dreamlike strangeness of some of his other work.
But the rough indie look combined with the faded watercolor wash overlays create a more subdued feel, despite horrific acts of violence breaking out. It didn't seem to really capture the imagination and energy -- the immediateness -- that certain elements of the story demand. The exotic and impressionistic elements were a bit too mundane for my tastes, but I wholeheartedly admit that this was a personal bias.
I usually like my indie art more experimental and less garage.
At the same time, however, I loved those watercolor washes. I would have preferred a more open palette that would have made more of an impression when contrasted with the everyday realism that characterizes the start of the story. A couple of moments in the story would have really benefitted from an explosion of pure unfiltered color.
But that initial reaction aside, I really can't praise the majority of this story enough. It's a work that definitely gets stronger and stronger with each re-reading, and I'm not too proud to admit that the art grew on me as I went along. Especially after the second time through. It's rough, but there are delicately insightful moments on nearly every page; and the handmade quality, the lack of digital flourishes or photorealism drives home an aesthetic philosophy that makes the reader -- this reader, anyway -- feel like wanting to make comics is an attainable goal. I might not be able to produce something this good, but I finished reading and wanted to try.
So I guess, in that sense, MIND MGMT does have a bit of reality rewriting going on. Not in the actual story, but in the interaction of the book and the reader. That in itself makes this a book that everyone should read. It's just gravy that the story's so damned good.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot at Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now for Kindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook. You can also purchase his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation at Amazon US and UK. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.