Review: Mind MGMT Omnibus Part 3 trade paperback (Dark Horse Comics)

September 6, 2020

Mind MGMT Omnibus Part 3

Like the bizarre inverted pyramid that backdrops the book’s conclusion, Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT has been a story that bucks conventional narrative structure. Whereas ordinarily an audience might be brought to care about characters at the beginning of a tale through their wants, desires, and emotions, the first couple volumes of Mind MGMT were frosty as they come, much more about the pervasive, slowly revealed conspiracy than who the disheveled Meru was and why we should care about her.

Almost 36 issues later, in the waning chapters of the Mind MGMT Omnibus Part 3 (collecting the original “Eraser” and “Immortals” volumes 5 and 6), when Kindt and Meru take a couple of pages for Meru to check in with and hug her estranged parents, the otherwise mundane sequence is startling for how heartwarming it is. The same with Meru forgiving mentor Henry Lyme, the same with her finally crying over the death of boyfriend Billy Falls. In a series where, at its darkest, even trying to change the world for the better is an act of violence, the unexpected grace here and in the book’s conclusion is astounding, as much evidence of Kindt’s mastery as the rest. Love finally comes to Mind MGMT, if only in the end.

[Review contains spoilers]

Within each of the two “volumes,” their most climactic (if not downright shocking) chapters are their final ones. Issue #30, the final chapter of “Eraser” — a volume not altogether all that much about the villainous Eraser, though this chapter more than makes up for that — is perhaps the most pivotal of the entire series, breaking Mind MGMT’s mysteries wide open. What had seemed wholly irreconcilable events now make sense, the presence of the Eraser at contradictory points through Meru, Lyme, and others' timelines, including when the Eraser seemed both imprisoned for her family’s murder and also free at the same time. The explanations are not too far-fetched, at least within the auspices of Mind MGMT — forgotten meetings, mistaken memories, and Management agents who can be perceived, at least, in two places at once.

On top of that, the Eraser chapter deepens the audience’s suspicion that Henry Lyme was not as responsible for the destruction of Zanzibar as we were originally led to believe. Like a fairy tale evil stepmother, the Eraser seems to have felt particularly threatened by the young Meru and her powers, both kicking her out of Mind Management and later, it seems, sending Lyme to Zanzibar to somehow unwittingly kill her.

We never get the details — the Eraser’s guilt is suggested, not proven, and obviously if so the plan went terribly awry, forging a bond between Meru and Lyme instead of eliminating them — but there’s enough now to set reasonable doubt on Lyme’s culpability. We see the Eraser and Lyme echo one another as powerful agents both shaped by their handlers-turned-spouses, but whereas the Eraser’s husband was abusive, this all also seems to clear Natasha of having corrupted Lyme in Zanzibar, with a couple of scenes here suggesting her true love for him.

The other surprising turn — perhaps especially reading Mind MGMT’s conclusion now, years later, with everything going on — is the optimistic blueprint Mind MGMT sets for its fictional future. Again, at its darkest, Kindt’s Mind MGMT seemed to suggest that corruption was inevitable, that whenever any powerful group of people came together to forward an agenda, for ill or good, the result would be bad — see the object lesson of Meru and company, with the best of intentions, razing the Magician’s life in Mind MGMT Vol. 4, not to mention the various cautionary tales of rogue Management groups. Out of all of that, in the end, comes a new way to manage the Management: autonomous, decentralized agent pairs, with emphasis on caring for one another and preserving each other’s mental health.

“Two is all you need,” Meru writes in the “New MGMT Field Guide.” “When any organization becomes larger than two, corruption can’t help but grow,” and paired with that, as counterpoint, “One agent alone invites insanity.” In popular fiction, for all the corrupt organizations we’ve seen with a couple good agents trying to take them down from the inside, Kindt stumbles on a recipe that seems so obvious and yet so revolutionary, this idea of a “management” that is not a management, centered around partnership or connections between two individuals.

Second, that Kindt and Meru place specific emphasis on mental health feels all the more important the longer we go. Here Mind Management’s mission looks kindly inward, helping the public but never at the cost of not helping the self. Notably, between two past recruiting failures, the Home Maker and the Magician, was additionally Meru’s failure to recruit Ella, the “wild girl.” Ella’s recognition of Meru as the lesser of two evils and her saving of Meru in the end suggests perhaps that we judged the failed recruiting trips too harshly; even when it seemed most faulty, there was promise in Meru’s attempts at human connection all along.

With everything happening in this series' six volumes, it would be a shame to let go unmentioned how much Mind MGMT is a comic book celebrating the immersiveness of comic books. Even in addition to every page over 36 issues being drawn on a faux book page, it’s suggested a number of times that everything we’re reading is an illustrated book being read by someone else — in this volume, by Meru’s agent, by the Ad Man’s assistant, by the Eraser herself. Kindt’s Mind MGMT is something of the ideal of Grant Morrison’s musings about living fiction — that a series about mysterious agents piping thoughts right into your brain is presented in a form in which everything you’re reading is a direct artifact from the in-universe world that you’re experiencing just the same as the characters themselves.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Mind MGMT Omnibus Part 3

4.5

Rating

There is plenty about Matt Kindt’s Mind MGMT that will stay with me for a while — that the restaurant down the street that’s always changing hands and is never open when you go there might be a secret flux safe house, for instance — and all the dark and light parallels between the characters that keep occurring to me even now. This is surely a masterwork, well-deserving of these omnibus editions and remaining in print for a long while to come. With the final stories collected in Mind MGMT Omnibus Part 3, Kindt reveals Mind MGMT’s missing ingredient, heart, and should the Eraser ever exact her revenge, it’ll be interesting to see what a different, emotional place Mind MGMT starts from next time around.

[Includes original and variant covers, sketches, short pitch, and other extras]

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