So… uhm… Remember when I said that so many great funnybooks had come out a couple of weeks back that I was worried about the rest of the month? And then a ton more great funnybooks came out the very next week, so I was worried about nothing? Yeah. Yeah, I think this week’s the payback. I only got one funnybook this week. ONE. Ah, well. At least it’s a doozy…
Mind MGMT 26, by Matt Kindt
Phrases like “one of the best comics on the market today” and “just keeps getting better and better” are over-used (I’m especially fond of that first one). But in this case, they really do apply. I love the style and tone of this series, the personal focus, the epic scope. That scope really comes out this issue, as Meru digs into the history of the Mind Management group, and comes face to face with a character we haven’t seen in a good long while: Sir Francis, the First Immortal.
It hadn’t occurred to me previously that the Immortals are actually, well, immortal. I figured it just referenced how hard they are to kill. But Sir Francis certainly seems to be literally immortal. He’s been sitting in that subterranean chamber for a while when Meru finds him, anyway, meditating and, uhm…
EATING THE MUSHROOMS GROWING OUT OF HIS OWN HEAD.
That’s right. MUSHROOMS. That GROW OUT OF HIS FUCKING HEAD.
This book’s given us some great grotesqueries in its run. The horribly-scarred Immortals who’ve survived innumerable terrible injuries, the freak show Agents with their brain-derived deformities, even the Magician, who hides her advanced age behind an illusion of youth. But this one… Heh. This one’s the first that’s actually made me pause to drink in how awesome it is. So weird and gross. Kudos, Mr. Kindt! I don’t shock easily, and you got me!
Meru turns down the Head-Shroom when it’s offered to her, and so we don’t get the awesome psychedelic head-trip I was hoping for. But that’s okay. Because what we do get is the Secret Origin ™ of the Management, and of the Field Guide we’ve been getting snippets of in the margins throughout the series.
This is the element that makes Mind MGMT simultaneously so much fun, and so annoying, to read. The Guide excerpts (or whatever else Kindt puts floating in the margins) break the flow of the story, and have you constantly turning the book sideways to read. It’s almost a relief, in fact, when Kindt goes full bleed on the art and you don’t get the things.
But the technique also adds a level of complexity to the series that makes the flow-breaking and the physical difficulties of reading the thing more than worth it. Because he shows you the “rough edges” of the page, actually printing the bleed lines and instructions along with the Guide entries, it gives things extra visual impact when he breaks the rules (something that can be seen in both of the first two images above).
The Guide itself, meanwhile, also serves as counterpoint to the story. Sometimes it’s ironic counterpoint, as seen above, with the Guide offering advice counter to what the characters are doing. But it’s also often revelatory, giving context to a character’s actions, or revealing how ingrained the Guide training is.
And this issue we find out why: the Field Guide is implanted in each agent’s mind subliminally, so the training comes to them automatically, without requiring conscious thought. That adds an even more interesting twist to the thing. It’s not just a weird storytelling device, it’s a glimpse into the minds of the characters. So when it suddenly starts to intrude on the story itself…
…it feels like a revelation. The kind of revelation that makes me want to go back and re-read the series to date.
(Which, you know, sure. I’ll do that just as soon as I get done re-reading Cerebus and The Silmarillion. Or maybe just finishing the two novels, collection of short stories, and book on early 20th Century Chicago brothels that I’m currently working my way through in addition to all the funnybooks…)
But even if I never do get around to that re-read, it doesn’t change how good Mind MGMT is. You should totally be reading it. WHY AREN’T YOU READING IT?!