Welcome back to Minding Mind MGMT, the monthly column focused on the Dark Horse series “Mind MGMT” from Matt Kindt. Why a special column instead of a regular review? Because each issue is crammed with story, requiring no less than two reads to fully absorb everything Kindt packs into it. Each month, we try to piece together the clues Kindt is hiding throughout the book, find all the Easter eggs, and speculate on what may happen next.
This is a spoiler-heavy column, so turn back now if you don’t want major plot details revealed.
Another magazine riff featuring Meru and Bill in a nondescript gardening scene…until you look closer. Bill’s holding a hammer by the picket fence, but his side is covered in blood. Meru’s basket holds a gun, duct tape, and rope – not normal gardening tools. And is that a hand she’s growing? The copy for Backyard Magic says it uses “worm food”, an old colloquialism for dead bodies. The landscaping shortcut calls for fertilizer and ammonium nitrate – two ingredients in homemade explosives.
The Main Story
The issue opens with Meru narrating her childhood. As she talks about reading books, we see her as the star. The first panel is (I think) from “Arabian Nights” and the third looks like a Nancy Drew adventure. The second one seems vaguely Chinese, but if anyone recognizes it, please share in the comments.
The second page is a big reveal done in a subtle way. The bookstore where Lyme found Meru hiding in issue five wasn’t just a random location. It belonged to her parents. This adds another layer to the comfort she finds in visiting other book stores (issue one). It also hints toward a deeper relationship between her and Lyme. When his family was in Zanzibar, they lived directly above that store (issue 5, pages 7 and 15). Meru undoubtedly met Lyme before the massacre, and may have even played with his daughter, who was about Meru’s age.
And if you remember, MIND MGMT knew about Meru and her ability to negate the powers of others. They had returned her to her parents, but it’s certain they knew where she lived. When the agency sent Lyme to Zanzibar for a vacation, did they purposely put him next to the the one person who could (maybe) turn his powers off?
Pages 3 and 4 include some more flashbacks from Meru, with Bill asking how she can trust them. Meru says they were in the book read in Shangri-la – you know, the one the Eraser pointed her to, in the spot where other books were missing? While the history Meru read is likely accurate, it’s also probable it’s as incomplete as Lyme’s story in the first arc. That soldier she dug up? Expect to see him again in some fashion.
Meru’s childhood home has been replaced by an American Burger joint. Did anyone else think their logo looked similar to the symbol above the souvenir shop?
Page 9 is a beautiful splash of a tower, supposedly modeled after a similar one in India. Some Google searches failed to turn up any real counterpart, but if you recognize it, please share in the comments. The story behind it does raise a couple questions: first, is the similar tower in India also a MIND MGMT coverup? Second, is this the Mount Meru seen in the drawing behind the boss’s desk in issue 11, page 11?
The Eraser’s agent following Meru and Bill is a new character. He claims the Eraser is putting MIND MGMT back together as a peacekeeping force, but this claim is dubious. It’s supported by the scarred immortal not attacking Meru in issue 12, but he and his friend didn’t seem bothered by collateral damage in the first arc.
The burning touch man communicates with the Eraser through Anthers Kindle, the dream walker first seen in the Second Floor of issue 10. The writing on the bottom of the coffee cup may be a reference to Person of Interest, which uses a similar method of communication. The first panel on page 16 may also be a shout out, as the scene looks very similar to the ghost… thing in the Image book “Revival”. Both of these could just be coincidence, of course.
When Anthers finds the Eraser, she’s having a pretty violent dream. No doubt it will gain significance sometime in the future. When she wakes up, she and Links are still in their RV, so this issue presumably takes place sometime shortly before the start of the third chapter of issue 13. Eraser replies to Meru with an image of the Housewife 5, and their meeting is arranged.Meru has a conversation with Bill about the nature of her negation of powers, ending with him punching her. She doesn’t die, but her nose does begin to bleed as she walks away. We know from previous events her powers don’t work on everyone, and they don’t always work 100%. Lyme has wiped her mind several times, and the Eraser was able to successfully disguise herself in issue 12. In the Mind Memo of issue 9, Bill comments on how being near her makes it difficult to focus on his ability, but he still manages to knock down a mountain. Hopefully, Bill didn’t hurt her too badly.
Matryoshkas Field Guide
Guide 14.1 through 14.4 indicate the visions people had of Meru in issues 3 and 9 as warrior princesses were images she unconsciously pushed onto them.
Guide 14.5 through 14.8 help to explain Meru’s drive in the early issues. Several characters commented on her ability to focus intently on a goal, and now we know it’s because of her emotional training. Also note the guide on the page with the soldier references a buried cache. Perhaps the there was more there if Meru had dug deeper?
Guides 14.10 through 14.21 detail what happens to agents who go against their orders. One symptom is a headache. Looking back through previous issues, no character has ever said they have one. However, in issue 7, Brinks looks like he has one, and he gets shot in the head by Stane just a few pages later. It’s probably safe to assume the secondary agent in most cases is a member of the Insurance Agency from the Second Floor of issue 4.
The Second Floor
This month introduces “Jardin”, the agent whose name is above the entrance to the beautiful garden in Shangri-la we’ve seen several times. it’s a neat idea, and it explains an interesting scene in issue 12. When Meru, Bill, and the scarred immortal are in the garden, at first it’s all dead leaves and fallen sticks. As Bill and Meru leave, it turns green and several blooms are seen. Apparently, Jardin’s abilities carry much more subtlety and dynamism than hinted at in this short strip.
The Letter Column
The name of this month’s chapter is “MERU AND BILL”. It also features a new name in the credits: Matt’s daughter, Ella Kindt. She was responsible for painting all the skin tones used in this issue. This book was already amazing (obviously), but knowing it’s the product of a whole family makes it feel like even more love goes into it than regular comics. Is that sappy? I don’t care. I just had a second daughter, so I’m (temporarily) more sensitive to things like this.
The Back Cover
Like last month’s issue, the back cover once again features real and fake ads. The real ones are the same, as are most of the fake ones. Of special note: The insurance ad to the left of the barcode is a throw back to the Second Floor of issue four. Immediately below that is the next part of the new web address for (I expect) extras for this arc.
Around the Web
Joshua Eubanks at Culture Mass gave the issue a negative review, which is fine, I guess, but I find his argument somewhat weak. He starts off by saying he hasn’t read the first 13 issues, then gives issue 14 a low score for not being accessible. While I’m generally a big proponent of every issue being written like it’s someone’s first, that’s not always appropriate. “Amazing Spider-Man” or “Batman”? Sure, those are long running series which need to have frequent jumping on points. But “MIND MGMT” isn’t one of those. Sure, it’s classified as an ongoing, but it also has a predetermined finish line at issue 36. No serious reviewer would’ve given “Y: The Last Man” #58 or “100 Bullets” #82 low scores for being inaccessible, just as they wouldn’t give the final issue of a three issue miniseries one. Despite being serialized, these issues are really chapters in one long narrative, like a boo, and are meant to be read from start to finish. Perhaps Eubanks didn’t realize “MIND MGMT” has a set run? I’d like to think that’s the issue here, and not that he’s the kind of guy who would rate the 20th chapter of a novel independent of the previous 19.
You may also be interested in a review of Matt’s other book this month, “Bloodshot” #0.
Also this Month
Matt has several other books coming out this month as tie-ins to Marvel and DC’s respective big events. He’s written “Infinity: The Hunt”, which the solicit promises will plant the seeds for a forthcoming event. He’s also churned out several one shots for DC’s Villain month, including “Deadshot”, “Solomun Grundy”, “Harley Quinn”, and “Sinistro”. Check ’em out!
And That’s All…
If you caught something I didn’t from this issue or prior ones, please mention it in the comments. I know I’m not catching everything. Thanks for reading!
Previously, on Minding MIND MGMT…