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.
This month’s cover shows Duncan about to kill a death row inmate with his finger, a scene found in flashback inside the issue and previously shown in “Dark Horse Presents” #19. Continuing this arc’s theme of having consecutive covers being part of a larger image the following month, you can see issue 10 re-imagined as a crime novel called “Hard Time” in a stack of other books. Meru’s true crime novel, “Premeditated,” is in said stack at least three times. Aside from a fun thing to notice, there’s certainly no meaning in that. At the time Duncan was killing this man, Meru’s book wasn’t written. The Dark Horse logo and the title card are skewed this month, appearing to be held on by paper clips. This hints toward next month’s cover where it will be one of many files falling through the air.
The Main Story
The narrative picks up sometime after the end of issue 10, with Meru asking Duncan for his story. They go to a pub where a bruised man glares at Duncan. You’d be forgiven for thinking this is the same guy Duncan beat up at the start of last issue, but it can’t be unless that guy is really slow to heal because a lot of story happened after that scuffle. Plus, this is a different pub, and Duncan’s narration last month indicated starting fights is a hobby of his.
The flower which catches Meru’s attention on page two hasn’t had any in-story meaning for her yet, but it has been used to mean death is some imagery through the series, such as the cover to issue six or on page 7 of issue 9.
Duncan’s recruitment in the alleyway has been show a couple times previously, but this is the first time we see Natasha as his recruiter. The panel where her clean, perfect arm reaches for his filthy and scratched one really sells how Duncan originally saw MIND MGMT as a chance for redemption, and also bears more than a passing resemblance to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Previously, the was no indication the death row inmate was anyone special, just an easily expendable target. The last panel on page four suggests he may have had some mental talents of his own, although his dialogue from DHP 19 places him as either unaware of who he was killing, or a deep mole like The Bear who was unaware of what he was. We also learn for the first time Duncan’s trip to the prison was a two-part assignment. At first glance, the scene appears to be played for suspense – The woman’s name is scratched out and her distinguishing facial feature is hidden in shadow. However, it’s pretty easy to tell the name under the scratching is Eraser, and all the suspense is resolved only seven pages later. The real purpose of the subterfuge on page 5 is to let the reader know that Duncan doesn’t know who he saved, and neither does Meru.
This reveal raises numerous questions, and will no doubt be pivotal sometime in the future. Duncan called her by her code name, so she must have been an agent prior to her sentence. Her facial expression and dialogue suggest she didn’t expect a rescue, and may have thought Duncan was sent to kill her. It seems she was erasing Duncan’s memories of her rescue as they happened, but the Second Floor story in issue five claimed she could only excise memories people wanted to forget. Obviously she is underestimated, and it’s possible no one at MIND MGMT remembers she ever needed to be rescued from prison at all. Whatever put her led her to this situation is no doubt important to her current motivation in trying to restart the agency.
The first panel on page seven, where Duncan’s teaching a class, has a cool continuity nod and a continuity error. It very casually mentions one of his lectures being self-preservation techniques, which is something Lyme briefly recalled after the explosion at Dusty’s. The students in the panel include Lyme and the Immortal who chased Meru in the first arc, but the immortal has the scar on his face he received in Zanzibar when Lyme defected. Perhaps there’s more than one bald agent with a wicked facial scar?
The next few pages help align Duncan’s timeline with Lyme’s background from issues four and five. They also feature some interesting hints and Easter eggs. At the bottom of page 7, Duncan’s warning his boss about Lyme, but this is a different man from the one in charge of Lyme in issue five. The wall behind his desk includes a large, upside down pyramid labeled “Excavation Plan”, and maybe “Zanzibar”? This is set prior to Lyme’s breakdown, which means Zanzibar may have a much deeper meaning to the series than previously suspected.
The giant man program looks like a Frankenstein experiment complete with a castle, which is a cool nod to Kindt’s work on DC’s “Frankenstein” book and leaves open the possibility “MIND MGMT” shares a universe not just with “Revolver”, but also “3 Story”. The rogue cowboy agent Duncan was sent to stop is Drake Sinclair, who stars in “The Sixth Gun”. Kindt is friends with the creators of that book, and it’s fantastic. You should already be reading it, but if you’re not, I suggest you start. The beautiful splash page says the last Bamiyan Buddha is buried in a cavern in Missouri, Meru’s (and Kindt’s) home state. Perhaps Lyme had that in mind when he arranged for her to live there with her foster parents.
When Duncan talks to his chief again on page 11, it’s just after Lyme’s breakdown. The board behind him now has construction plans for “Mount Meru”. There’s also a sketch of a rib cage and a few other sketches, but they don’t seem to mean much. The next panel is a visual representation of MIND MGMT’s coverup. A newspaper article on the massacre is partially covered in darkness, and a blue symbol from an Ad Man can be seen on the left. The agent who does the prepping in panel 4 is the same one who snaps new recruits awake, as seen in issue 4, page 2.
It’s important to keep in mind while reading this part of the issue which parts are Meru’s narration and which are visual or spoken. At this point, Meru believes she only visited Zanzibar for the first time very recently, with Lyme and Perrier. She is unaware of the massacre, her presence during it, or the coverup. When her narration says Duncan was “unconsciously drawn back to Zanzibar,” it doesn’t necessarily mean Duncan’s memory of it was erased. It could be, despite his conversation with Lyme last issue, Duncan was less than forthcoming with Meru about this.
After the group hikes toward Shangri-la and Meru has a very awkward, foreboding conversation with Lyme, they all seem completely oblivious to a very interesting piece of information. One panel after saying a person can’t see Shangri-la unless they’ve had MIND MGMT training, Meru sees the building. This column has previously speculated Meru is immune to MIND MGMT tricks and/or has been trained as an agent. This is one more piece of evidence in favor of those theories.
Duncan tells them danger’s coming, and Lyme does a very odd thing. They’re there for a list of former agents and he says he remembers where it is, but he tells the group to split up. Lyme, Duncan, and Dusty go one way while Meru and Perrier, the two people Lyme is keeping secrets from, go straight to the library and find an archivist. Kindt promised issue twelve would have some big reveals, and talking to a guy who records the secret history of the world is definitely a good way to answer (and raise) some questions. At the same time, the danger Duncan sensed, revealed to be the two immortals and Links, the AWOL junkie agent from issue 9.
This month’s excerpts do not reveal too much new information, and is very appropriately cut short with a note from Brendan, the series editor. It does mention Julianne had refused to appeal her conviction, and had actually expedited her execution. This makes for a strange timeline, because her family was murdered in 1973, and Meru would be interviewing her no earlier than 2000, and probably closer to 2010.
Under the blue line in the last section, it mentions a parallel universe. This is a reference to “Revolver”, where Julieanne’s husband played the villain. It also has a skewed timeline though, because “Revolver” was set in the modern day, and Verve was alive, well, and fairly young in it. Certainly not old enough to have been a husband and father in 1973.
After a long absence, the Field Guide finally returns. According to 11.14, agents are supposed to redact location information from pilots after a drop. Hopefully that’s all the information Lyme removed this time…
Ferris/Bill meets his girlfriend in the garden, where she tells him she’s being kicked out of MIND MGMT because she’s immune to people’s abilities. He visits the Eraser, who happens to also be his ex-girlfriend, and tells her it’s about Meru. There’s a blackout, and then he’s CIA agent Bill Falls, being told by his Kindt-lookalike partner they’re going on the road.
At a first read, it’s easy to get the impression Bill’s girlfriend was the same Meru from the main story. A little too easy, I think. Without a date or other point of reference, it’s hard to nail down exactly when this story has been taking place. It’s before MIND MGMT is shut down (1995 or earlier), so it’s also before Lyme’s breakdown and his discovery of Meru in Zanzibar. This makes it impossible for his girlfriend to be the same Meru we know.
He could be talking about Mt Meru, the pyramid seen in a schematic earlier this issue. It’s also possible he’s talking about Meru as a child, if she is Lyme’s daughter as this column has previously speculated. This would make some sense, considering the setup. His girlfriend is being kicked out for being immune to mental talents. Meru also seems to have this immunity, and he may have been reporting Lyme’s daughter as a potential threat – meaning the Eraser knows who and what Meru is in the current plot.
While not overt, there seems to be quite a long time span between the blackout and Bill waking in the CIA office. His hair is longer and graying. His cubicle has papers for the amnesia flight, Shangri-la, and a sketch of Meru. The events of his mind memo so far have probably been Bill remembering the events right before the beginning of issue one. Some time ago, this column speculated Bill was a MIND MGMT agent based on how well he followed the Field Guide while being chased by immortals, and him being an activated sleeper agent at the time would make perfect sense. Hopefully next issue’s Mind Memo will reveal what happened to him after being left at the shack by the river.
The gray box at the bottom of page 24 did have a 3 in it this time, as expected. What significance this could have beyond being another fun code, who knows?
The Second Floor
Picking up some threads from the Second Floor of issue six, this edition spotlights The Magician. It builds on Duncan’s secret behind killing with his finger: the power of belief. In this particular case, it takes a look at the dark side of that power, and seems to spell doom for the Magician.
The Back Cover
The final page of the issue is a very retro looking ad for Shangri-la: The Board Game. It features a map of the building, including the very ominous “Below” at the center. The text asks kids if they display any mental abilities, and asks them to mail the ad to the address below if they do. The address is for the Dark Horse offices. While this is probably just a fun gag, in the interest of being thorough, I’ve mailed mine in. We’ll see what happens.
Remember at the end of issue 6, where the panels were slightly off and showed some rough sketches underneath? The MIND MGMT facebook page shared an image what was fully underneath. If sales had been lower and the series had been cancelled at the end of the first arc, these were the alternate ending. Enjoy!
You can also read a pretty cool interview with Kindt from the LA Times.
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, especially from this issue. Thanks for reading!