Sunday, September 07, 2014

book-a-Day 2014 #250: Mind MGMT Vol. 1 by Matt Kindt

Comics have always been about secret stories, the hidden truths behind what we've been told, from the earliest days of pulpy comic books. All of those mystery men, with their origins and powers carefully hidden behind insubstantial domino masks -- and then their stories retold and changes all the time, each time the shocking new true secret behind the story you thought you knew.

Matt Kindt doesn't really come from that end of comics -- his earlier books mined secrets mostly through espionage stories like Super Spy and semi-related Phildickian fantasias like Revolver. But his books are steeped in secrets: operational, national, personal, unspeakable. And he's finally started a major ongoing series, after a bunch of discrete projects, that is all about secrets, their manipulation, and the people who find or hide them.

There are already several collections out -- I'm running behind -- but the story begins in Mind MGMT, Volume 1: The Manager. Like a mainstream novelist -- rather than like a SF writer or like most comics -- Kindt starts with a few odd events and builds up from there, rather than dropping the reader directly into his strange world. So we follow a young woman named Meru -- no second name, just Meru -- who wrote one bestselling work of true crime and have been casting about for a couple of years trying to find her next subject. She becomes obsessed with "Amnesia Flight 815," a plane where all of the people on board, passengers and crew alike, lost their memories entirely in flight two years before.

So Meru sets off to research that plane -- and of the one passenger who wasn't found when it landed, the ominously named Harry Lyme -- and she quickly discovers she's not the only one searching. There's a CIA agent, who helps her. There are two "immortals" who chase both of them, implacable and apparently unstoppable. And there's Lyme himself when she finally finds him, who claims to be, essentially, one of the secret masters of the world. He tells her a fantastic story of superhuman abilities -- to regenerate from any wound, to control others mentally, to create perfect propaganda that simply can't be disbelieved, to infallibly predict the future unconsciously. He doesn't tell her names for most of these abilities, just the people that have them. He doesn't explain where they came from, or why they exist: just that he was trained, he developed certain skills, and among his co-workers there were other skills. They all worked for something called Mind MGMT, probably a government agency, though Lyme is vague on that. He knows what he did, and his guilt for that, and he believes that he was the best agent in the group, and that when he cracked the whole agency was disbanded, with just a few "immortals" on detached assignment to clean up the loose ends.

As usual, Kindt is more focused on interesting questions and options than definite answers; this first volume of Mind MGMT only sketches the framework in which these agents worked and what they could do. Frankly, they could be gods, and in other comics-maker's hands, that would be the inevitable way the story would bend. But I don't know if Kindt cares about that angle; we'll have to see. From this introductory story, we know that Mind MGMT exists, or existed, that it had counterparts all around the world, and that some of its veterans are too damaged to go on, but that others are quite capable of going on absolutely indefinitely. It remains to be seen what any of them want now: Meru or Lyme or those implacable immortals or the shadowy figures that ran the group and possibly still do so now.

And, more than anything, we know that in the world of Mind MGMT, absolutely everything is suspect: any fact or name or action could be a lie or a false memory, every story a false trail or a pure invention. And we know that normal humanity, so far, has no defenses or safeguards against the mind managers: we are all nothing but sheep to their wolves.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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