Re-Reading Comics: MIND MGMT (Book 1)

I’m continuing my big pandemic reread – using graphic novels, collections, and single issues I’ve got in my apartment right now – with the first collected hardback of Matt Kindt’s MIND MGMT. Subtitled “The Manager”, this includes issues 1-6, originally published monthly.

I got this and the second collection as a Christmas present a few years ago. The person who gave them to me had read and loved them, which is the best kind of present: not just something they thought I’d like, but a gift of getting to know them better too, but seeing what matters to them.

Reading this again made me realize that most of the comics I have are by dudes. I mean, I knew that… Everyone knows that most professionally published comics artists and a great number of writers are cis men. Every time the parity starts to shift toward something diverse and equitable, a bunch of insecure dudes starts screaming about “ruining comics” and “SJWS” and on and on, which keeps those numbers artificially inflated. In general, I do think it’s getting better, but considering that it was better before, then got worse again due to the agitation of brittle boys who suddenly decided the thing they loved had to be hoarded and guarded and viciously restricted (hey, just like video games!) “getting better” is a long fucking process.

What does this have to do with MIND MGMT? If you read the blurbs, reviews, etc, you’ll mostly see people saying this is Meru’s story, the tale of a true crime writer hunting down an mysterious government agency and an elusive rebel. Meru is a woman, therefore the story is centered on a woman, she’s the main character, yay! Except… no. It’s a story about Meru, certainly. It’s just told by Henry Lyme, is centered on Lyme, and is about the ways Lyme has manipulated everything and everyone around him, including Meru. Whatever happens to her, she’s a puppet tossed about on the wind, and Lyme is the unsubtle on-the-page eye of the storm.

Same is true of the other women in Lyme’s life. Everyone lives and dies according to Lyme’s (often immature and selfish) desires.

There are some great stories about women written by men. And I do think MIND MGMT is a great story, so familiar as to feel it’s treading on the same old ground, until it slides into new territory so fast you didn’t even feel the shift. It’s a single creator’s vision, which I tend to favor when I want to get to know a writer/artist, nothing but some editorial cleanup between vision and the page. I don’t love the sketchy watercolor style Kindt uses here, but it’s solid and consistent – even if it’s not my thing, he’s obviously good at it. There’s a difference between writers who can’t draw, and artists choosing to work with their strengths to produce a unique style, and I think Kindt’s in the second class. The more you see of his art, the more you can tell it’s on purpose.

I’m just tired of straight dudes with unimaginable cosmic power literally thinking they’re the center of everything, and writers who think “flawed man” are somehow tragically endearingly. It’s done so much, everywhere, that it’s boring.

All right. Moving on.

What great about this book? The imagination. The way Lyme’s own power weighs him down, fucks him up, and ruins everything he cared about. (I wish it wasn’t revealed as a side note to telling Meru’s story – it felt like neither side of the story had as much impact as they both could have if it had been a little more honest about centering Lyme to begin with.) Meru’s sadness, the way she’s broken and messy without it being cute – Kindt sidesteps the usual manic pixie dream trope. The whole psychic espionage thing; who among us hasn’t wondered if that sort of thing was really going on? The other agents we see too-briefly. The way Kindt takes his idea to their logical ends, building a world which makes sense, so you can drop into the story without fighting your lizard brain over the “possibility” of it all.

Whatever you think of who gets to tell the stories and whose stories we get to see, MIND MGMT takes Kindt’s story all the way.

Next week, book two: “The Futurist”.

Notes and References:

  • You can find all of my recent comics reviews here.
  • Dark Horse’s digital comics page for MIND MGMT.

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