MIND MGMT – The 2015 Weekly Writer Challenge: Matt Kindt (Part 1)
52 weeks. 52 different writers. 2 trade paperbacks or hardcovers a week. Each week I’ll take a look at a different writer and read two different collected editions from within that person’s repertoire to help in the examination of their work.
Matt Kindt is perhaps best known for his comic works largely involving spies and general espionage. Back in the 90’s, Kindt worked in the local mini-comics scene, basing himself out of St.Louis, Missouri. In 2001 he published his first graphic novel through Top Shelf Entertainment called Pistolwhip. It was nominated for a Harvey Award the following year as well as being well received by critics yet it still remained a relatively obscure title. Kindt continued working with Top Shelf as well as other publishers including Dark Horse and Vertigo, producing plenty of well-received spy related work. In 2012, Matt Kindt began releasing his first ever solo ongoing series, MIND MGMT, through Dark Horse. The book received strong critical acclaim, with the first collected edition being on the New York Times Bestseller list for two weeks.
MIND MGMT Volume 1: The Manager
The 210 passengers on Flight 815 all suddenly forget who they are or what they are doing on the plane. Shocked, scared, and racing to survive, the passengers are confused and in disbelief as they can’t even recognize themselves. By some form of a miracle, the plane is landed safely and all the passengers disembark which leads to another layer of peculiar mystery surrounding the plane. After a careful examination of the flight manifest, the world is set into a state of uproar and curiosity when it is revealed that there was actually 211 passengers on the plane, with one Henry Lyme never being interviewed or found. Two years after the accident, a somewhat successful writer named Meru decides to take the plunge to try to track down Henry Lyme for her next book, even if it takes her to the edge of the Earth. Meru’s agent’s patience has grown thin from her lack of recent success but he sends her away on a mysterious assignment to Mexico to help her with her new book. When Meru arrives she discovers a village of starved bodies and thousands of empty pots, unable to shake the feeling that this is somehow connected to Flight 815. Things only get weirder for Meru when she discovers she’s being trailed by the CIA during her search for Henry Lyme and that they may be the only people who can attempt to keep her safe from a mysterious pair called “The Immortals”. Henry Lyme, The Immortals, The CIA, and Meru. It’s all connected and begins to unravel the tale surrounding a group referred to as “Mind Management”.
Matt Kindt writes, draw, letters, and colours his first ever solo ongoing series, MIND MGMT. MIND MGMT is a brilliant, mind-bending story about a woman who needs answers for phenomenons that simply don’t have answers. Following the story of Meru and the mysterious Henry Lyme, Matt Kindt builds a beautiful story that is equal parts Twilight Zone and Lost, easily sucking in any reader who enjoys a good, mind bending story. What I found most intriguing about the story is how divisive it made me, loathing the first three issues before absolutely falling head-over-heels in love with the final three issues in the collection. To me, it was an instance of “weathering the storm”, where I had to stomach something I didn’t necessarily love to make me appreciate it that much more. It’s hard to say whether it was intentional on Matt Kindt’s part, or simply a happy coincidence, but nonetheless MIND MGMT is a story that only shines more brightly the further you delve into it.
Inside of its enthralling and fascinating nature, MIND MGMT is likely to leave you confused for the first bit of the story, before unfurling key secrets as the story carries on. The story opens with a scene that features so much carnage that it makes a slasher film look like it plays in the little leagues before reeling it all back in to sink into the perplex series of stories surrounding the lead character in Meru. As you climb through the first three issues, absolutely unsure of what the heck is going on, you get a sense of some peculiar obstacles being in play that are all linked together somehow, you just can’t quite put it together until Matt Kindt gives you the right kind of answers. It feels almost Indiana Jones-esque in a way at times, as the plot whisks you from one exciting locale to the next as Meru tries to piece everything together for her own sake. It’s when issue four finally rolls around and begins to explain the interesting life of Henry Lyme that you’ll likely come to realize what a magnificent piece of art Matt Kindt has produced with MIND MGMT.
Your two primary characters of Meru and Henry Lyme are clear dividing points in the story. Where Meru is the curious woman with one thousand questions, being upfront of who she is while still trying to discover who she is, Henry Lyme is the enigma with all the answers to every question Meru has. In each of the first issues, Meru finds another question she needs to ask while in the last three issues Henry Lyme provides some answers for nearly every question. It’s difficult to type about the characters without spoiling everything but it’s just one of those stories that legitimately made me go “oh! Wow, it all makes sense now…” when the pieces started to fall into place. The leads of Meru and Henry are similar yet so wildly different at the same time, something which Matt Kindt nails with the way he writes his characters in this volume. Beyond your two leads, Kindt introduces a handful of other meaningful characters who are just as interesting as Meru or Henry and still affect the plot in dynamic ways.
In terms of dialogue, I found that Matt Kindt made some strange but enjoyable choices with the way he choose to have characters tell the story as well as interact with each other. In illustrating the book himself, Kindt seems to actively choose to avoid drawing many scenes where characters talk face to face and show their emotions or reactions to what they’re told. Instead, Kindt will have two characters conversing but have their words appear as captions over top of other parts of the story. For example, Henry begins to reveal key secrets to Meru as they speak directly to each other, but instead of showing us Meru and Henry talking we instead see the story of what Henry is saying. It’s a deft way to tell the story that keeps the plot moving at a brisk pace and avoids lots of “talking heads” on the page. In writing the story and basing his dialogue around this style, Kindt keeps the wheels spinning and never leaves the reader feeling like they’re missing something. It’s as if he’s giving you the best parts of the “show and tell” aspect of comics, instead of just showing or telling you what you need to see or read as a reader.
Collects: MIND MGMT #1-6
Best Character: Henry Lyme
Best Line Of Dialogue/Caption: “Ever have a dream that was like a story? And at the end of the dream there’s a twist ending?” – Henry Lyme
Best Scene/Moment: A bad dream – Issue 5
Best Issue: Issue #4. Issue #4 makes the entire story take a dramatic and exciting turn that you might not expect. It is the first chapter that starts to pull back the facade and show you who Henry Lyme actually is after three issues worth of build up. It’s peculiar too because, Issue 5 might actually be a more exciting and potentially more enjoyable issue just because of how much more it explains but the fourth issue is the integral building block that sets up everything else that happens in the final two issues of this collection. Issue 4 is a clear turning point for the series that grips you so tightly that you’re almost shocked when it lets you go after it concludes. It’s an issue I didn’t want to stop reading and wished would go on forever because of how much it explained and set up future narratives.
Why You Should Read It: This is the perfect style of comic for a reader who wants to have their brain challenged in a way they wouldn’t expect. It’s like the best parts of something like The Twilight Zone in a comic book. The story is fascinating and this is a comic designed for a reader who loves story over world building. Everything Kindt does in this first volume of MIND MGMT has purpose, clearly teeing up the series for the long game and it’s all done in a way that keeps you hooked from start to finish. MIND MGMT is worthy of any reader who likes a good twist of their brain.