Review: Mind MGMT Vol. 3: The Home Maker hardcover (Dark Horse Comics)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

It wouldn't be Mind MGMT if the book wasn't a riddle wrapped in an enigma, and Matt Kindt's Mind MGMT Vol. 3: The Home Maker is no exception. Kindt starts the third volume considerably far from where the second volume ended and the pieces take a while to coalesce, but three volumes in we trust by now that there's always a method to Kindt's madness and a startling twist waiting at the end. Here again, Home Maker is no exception, with a four-page fold-out spread that can only be described as "operatic."

In truth, Home Maker forwards the overall Mind MGMT story only slightly, though I'd argue there are so many little details sprinkled throughout that even if Mind MGMT doesn't get "further" here, it certainly gets deeper. I've read Kindt describes this as Mind MGMT's halfway point, and if the book is a little quieter (up until said operatic ending), it closes protagonist Meru's arc from the first two books and cements the status quo for Mind MGMT's next act.

[Review contains spoilers]

Home Maker collects five issues, #13-17, comprising the "Home Maker" story, plus the one-off issue #18. To an extent most of the issues are self-contained (though linked), which contributes to the sense that the book catches its breath here even in the strong action sequences. The book opens with a purposefully-confusing look at the titular "Home Maker," followed by single-issue profiles of Meru, Henry Lyme, and the Eraser, and then the concluding issue and the "Zoo Keeper" profile. Though the middle three character profile issues weave in and out of the "Home Maker" storyline, they each mostly stand on their own, with the beginning and arc-ending issue #17 being the most connected.

The Meru and Lyme are the least effective chapters among an overall stellar book (like saying this corner of the Mona Lisa is my least favorite) if only because most of what they show us explicitly could already be intuited by sharp readers, and what revelations Kindt includes here are so subtle as to be almost unnoticeable. Meru's issue tells us the least (though don't think I missed that nosebleed Mr. Kindt, no sir). At the same time, I have noted before that I sometimes find it hard to empathize with Meru given how little the character knows herself, but I thought "Right in the boob" was an absurdly funny line in the midst of it all that helped humanize Meru considerably.

Ditto the Lyme issue, which I thought told us even less new information about the character (that I noticed). But here as well, Kindt's depiction of all the times Lyme brought Meru to him, told her his story, and then wiped her memory was incredibly affecting, both in the ways Lyme tried to tell the truth initially and then got further away from it with each instance, and also the gradual disintegration of Meru each visit. I need to re-read Volume 1 of Mind MGMT at some point to catch the subtleties I missed then and understood now; Mind MGMT has been optioned as a movie and I wonder if they would actually tell Vol. 1 as written, with the audience not finding out that Meru has done this before until the end, and then the "real" story starts in the sequel. It would be interesting to see the reaction of those "not in the know."

The Eraser's chapter, in contrast, tells us a lot we don't know about the character, and it's buffeted in true Mind MGMT style by the hypnotic sci-fi story that starts at the edges and then ultimately takes over the page (the visual crown jewel of the volume until it's trumped by the fold-out). It turns out, through a series of events both revealed and unrevealed, that new MGMT leader the Eraser is actually Julianne Verve (or is she?), subject of Meru's true crime book and supposed murderer of her own family. A bevy of questions are opened up here, given that it seems that Julianne did not have powers at the outset and that it was her husband who was hooked up with Mind MGMT, but somehow Julianne comes to take the fall for his murder and reemerges as the Eraser. Further, Lyme pushed Meru to write Julianne's story, and Duncan, the Futurist, freed her from death row (as shown in Volume 2). Are Lyme and Duncan responsible for the Eraser's threat -- and is the Eraser a threat at all?

Aside from watching all the "Home Maker"'s dominoes fall in issue #17, resulting in a suburb imploding, one of the moments that grabbed me the most in this volume was when Meru had to choose between the Eraser and Lyme. Kindt did actually make me doubt whether the Eraser was truly "bad" or if her supposed mission to take down the Russian MGMT equivalent (the book's other key contribution to the mythos) wasn't actually noble. For a moment I did root for Meru to go with the Eraser rather than Lyme, hoping Kindt might pull a Lost/Others/the-bad-guys-aren't-so-bad-type scenario, but it wasn't to be. That Meru sides with the forces that want to stop Mind MGMT instead of the forces who want to harness the super-powered chaos makes sense enough and cements Meru and Lyme's "team," though I think Kindt intends that the difference between the two groups is really negligible.

It's likely tough to follow the, again, operatic chaos of issue #17 (one can actually imagine an opera score playing under all of the carnage); issue #18 does this well enough, but it's clear it's got a hard act to follow. This issue profiles the young "Zoo Keeper" who can control and influence animals. Lyme makes some interesting appearances in flashback and one wonders if his care for the Zoo Keeper is influenced by his care for Meru or vice versa, or if all of this stems from some other relationship in Lyme's life. However, "Zoo Keeper" ultimately follows what becomes a maybe too-familiar Mind MGMT storyline in which a character develops powers, gets recruited by the group, has qualms about the work, and then in some way gets out (see Lyme, Dusty, Duncan). Kindt's use of Dick and Jane tropes here is amusing and the storybook narration along the side of the page is downright creepy, but one does get the sense they've read this issue before (and not because of partial mind-wiping).

But Mind MGMT Vol. 3: The Home Maker is, in total, remarkably clever, and the way in which the rogue Home Maker's plan ultimately comes together is something everyone should behold. With Mind MGMT's first book, I didn't really know what was going on, and with the second I "got it" retroactively; now with the third volume, Matt Kindt shows us the story Mind MGMT can really tell with (more of) its cards on the table, and I'm hooked once again. Only, after this book's giant gatefold, I wonder what Kindt will do for an encore.
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