Holy crap. This issue sure answered a lot of questions and tied together a lot of different plot threads. This column will provide in-depth analysis to help you navigate the overlapping storyline and offer some theories on the remaining mysteries.
In another mixed media cover, we’re treated to a close up of the Eraser, complete with her two red scars. For a visual pun, the image was created by eraser shavings. There are three colors used here: Black for the hair and most of the facial features. Gray for the neck and pupils. Pink for the scars, and one stray piece of pink in her hair, above and a little left of her right eye. Accident or meaningful? You decide.
The background texture looks like some kind of woven material, not paper. It’s either a canvas under extreme close up, or maybe a paper towel. Either way, I believe the texture was added in separately from the face image – note the sudden change from shaded to unshaded by her left ear.
There’s also an interesting choice of crop over the title. The peak of her hair and a little more overlaps the colored box, but then the box overlaps some of the remaining hair/shavings.
The Main Story
It’s clear from the first page this issue isn’t like the rest of the series. The pages have a stronger tint to them, due to a change in how they’re made (more on that later). The memories filling the pages are also being filtered through the Eraser’s fantasies. The previous issue that dived into her past (#16) featured art with a skewed perspective, emphasizing her altered and missing memories by cutting off heads and faces in awkward ways. This time, we get a fuller picture of events, but they’re shown in a futuristic setting. Like issue 16, the Eraser’s narration is in black boxes with white text.
The story opens with Julianne kissing her brother, David. Thanks to the side text from issue 7, we know that she initiated their relationship when she was a teen, and that she forced him to continue it under threat of revealing it (p18). David says he had a good relationship with his parents, and that part of the reason Julianne pursued their relationship was jealousy.
According to her narration at the top of page 3, she left her brother home to suffer their father’s abuse alone. This contradicts the side text from #7p11, where David told Meru his parents weren’t abusive. It’s possible he wasn’t being truthful at the time, because he also denied his romantic experiences with his sister.
Her escape into fantasy was previously shown at the start of #16, though with a different book. In that issue, she mentions vague memories of “college…boarding school? I’m not sure.” This issue makes it clear she received some MIND MGMT training, but didn’t last long. After she returns, she’s obsessed with P K Verve’s novels. The sequence of her tracking him down on page 3 makes it look like she met him privately, but the scene as shown in #16p4 makes it clear she met him at a book signing. Their sex scene is set up almost identical to the one in #16p5. They’re in the same position, and a urinal can be seen at the left edge of the panel.
On page 4, Verve reveals to Julianne his connections to MIND MGMT and begins to train her as an eraser. These events were completely omitted from #16 because Verve erased her memories of training after their sessions. He was effectively honing a sleeper agent’s skills without waking her up, but the constant erasing took its toll on her. The result of those continuous erasures is evident from her broken mindset throughout #16 and from the snippets of dialogue between Verve and other agents on page 6 and from #16p14.
On page 7, we find a familiar face. Jason Corridor, the transition counselor, first appeared in the -2 story of #0. He was referenced again in the side text of #10p20 through the end of #11. When he arrives at the Verve home on page 8, we see that Julianne does in fact have two children. This was first stated plainly in the side text of #7p2, but only one child was shown or mentioned in #16.Continued below
Julianne wakes up and meets Corridor in a hallway after he’s killed her children. No dialogue is shown between them, but this is actually a key moment. According the side text of #10p19, Corridor whispered the activation code words “Mulligan Rock” to Julianne during this encounter. Aside from returning her memories of training, this presumably brought back all of her erased memories as well. This activation explains the differences in perspective from #16 and this issue. The earlier flashback was Julianne’s experience when she was still a sleeper agent, and her narration vanishes after Corridor appears. Here, we’re treated to her full and unclouded memories.
On page 9, a new detail is disclosed: Julianne really did kill her husband. Interestingly, she murdered him in his bed. This is the same place he was shown in #16, but the side text of #10p16, Julianne says she found Verve dead in his office. Obvious answer to this conflict: their bed was in his office. True, his typewriter isn’t shown in the room, and a bed isn’t shown in the office on #16p9, but neither room is shown in its entirety, either.
Her confinement starting on page 11 helps clear up some confusion in the story’s time line. According to #7p1, Julianne’s family was murdered in 1973. Her narration says her death sentence will be carried out in 30 years, aka 2003 (maybe a little later, if you allow time for the trial). My previous estimate (based on #15) had Meru writing her book between 2010 and 2011, but this new information pushes that back to 2006 at the latest. That likewise pushes back the Zanzibar massacre, which likely occurred in the late 90s. I had previously guessed it happened around 2005, and that Obama had disbanded the agency shortly after taking office. This new time frame suggests that it would have been broken up by either Clinton or Bush II (or their stand-ins, since it seems different people are in office in “MIND MGMT”).
People believing she’s in prison while she’s off doing agency work also fills in some odd discrepancies from earlier issues. Namely, how she was able to interact with a young Bill and Meru without making them in their late 50s. The events at the top of page 12 were first seen in #8p24. Her ability to look younger also explains how she, a woman old enough to have a family in the 70s, had a relationship with a young recruit in the late 80s/early 90s. While the age gap is still quite gross, it’s not out of character for a woman who had previously forced herself on her own brother.
In the mind memo of #11, we saw Meru was kicked out of MIND MGMT the second time by “the boss.” On page 13, we see the event was set in motion by Julianne.
Page 14 and 15 are a different view of Duncan’s “rescue” of Julianne from death row, previously seen in #11 and DHP #19. It’s important to note that while this is shown after Julianne’s love triangle with Bill and Meru, it actually occurred first. This was Duncan’s induction into the agency, which occurred prior to Zanzibar, and therefore prior to Meru’s second stint at the agency.
Page 17 makes a bold reveal, and raises an issue. First, the boss asks Julianne if she’s the one who sent Lyme to Zanzibar. Way back in #5, Lyme’s wife Natasha only says “they want us to take a trip to Zanzibar,” but it’s never specified who. This was a possibility hinted at during the Magician arc, when the back covers showed the Eraser unleashing some demons on Zanzibar. He also throws out the idea that Julianne planned for Lyme to go nuts there, hoping Meru would be killed in the crossfire. Julianne essentially admits to the first accusation, and implies guilt to the second.
Here’s the problem with that, though: Julianne didn’t have Meru expelled until after Zanzibar. Could she have had something to do with Meru’s first expulsion? Perhaps…Julianne didn’t seem to know Meru during Meru’s second recruitment.
On pages 18 and 19, we finally see the interview between Meru and Julianne that was previously quoted in the side text of #11. It seems Julianne’s earlier dislike for Meru has faded, because she mentions considering Meru as a future recruit. (A thought she tried to follow through with in #17p26.) The narration at the end of the page 19 mentions that both Meru and Julianne are victims, highlighting the similarities between the two women. Both were recruited by MIND MGMT twice. Both were used and mind-wiped by men who should have been protecting them. Both had feelings for Bill Falls.Continued below
After quickly covering the start of Julianne’s rebuilding of the agency, there’s one last look at her faraway past. Julianne’s fake love note was first mentioned by her brother in #7p13. We finally learn the source of the Eraser’s scars, and see her father being taken away for it. The charges must not have stuck, however, because Meru’s book describes him as “never abusive.” Surely she would have mentioned it if he’d been arrested for marring his daughter’s face.
On the final page, Julianne asks Links to take her home. Does she mean the new headquarters in Hong Kong? The old Shangri-la? Her house with PK Verve? Or her childhood home in New York? We’ll have to wait and see, I guess.
The Second Floor
Julianne’s dead husband is the focus of the second floor this month, but the entry seems rather unreliable. It starts off by saying he rose to fame in the 70s, but we already know he was murdered by Julianne in 1973. According to his author bio on a musty used paperback (#16,p4), he had been writing novels for 20 years prior to meeting Julianne. It goes on to say his first three books were “The Memory Titans of Felix Five”, “The Princess Torture Sessions”, and “The Revolver Sextuplet”. That same author bio says his first book was actually “Beast with 1000 Faces.”
How to explain this? Well, it may all come down to that cruise missile. You’ve read Kindt’s “Revolver”, right? If not, go do so now. Otherwise, spoilers.
Verve was the villain in “Revolver”, and he had the ability to pass between two alternate worlds. The book concluded with him being killed by a cruise missile landing in his living room in San Francisco. It seems that somehow he and that missile found their way to the world of “MIND MGMT,” close to Shangri-la. His talents made him a natural recruit.
How does this explain the differences between this Second Floor and previously established facts? Simple. There are two P K Verves in this world. One is older, and wrote “Beast with 1000 Faces” along with several other novels. The younger one is from the “Revolver” universe, and he took over the older Verve’s life. The older Verve was probably murdered to make way for the evil version. This would also explain the apparent age gap between Verve and Julianne. Based on details from #16, he should have been at least 60 when they met, and probably older. She would have been around 20.
Why did no one notice this younger replacement? Mind Magic, of course.
The Letter Column
Brendan goes into some detail about why this issue looks different from previous ones. When he talked about the different effects used to make the art, I was with him right up until the word gouache. If you didn’t know what that meant either, it’s a type of paint. It works similar to watercolors, but it’s opaque.
Also, another reminder to check out “Dark Horse Presents” next month for the prologue to the final arc. You shouldn’t need that reminder though, because you should already be reading that anthology. There’s always great stuff in there, and it’s always worth the price of admission.
The Back Cover
An ad for one of Verve’s novels. The bold text suggests you torture your enemies. I thought the blue pages were a very nice touch.
In Other News…
If you read this column, then you’re probably aware Kindt has made some dust jackets for the “MIND MGMT” hard covers. They’re sold at conventions, and they’re $100 a piece (they include a hard cover).
Last week, one sold on eBay for big bucks. Hopefully, that doesn’t give Kindt any ideas about raising his prices…
Also, c$ left an interesting theory in the comments for last month’s installment. It’s rather complex, so I’m not going to just copy/paste it here, but it’s worth going back to check out.
And that’s all for this month
I know I didn’t catch everything. For instance, I’m sure a lot of the sci-fi imagery was inspired by some classic movies. I thought I recognized some Star Wars and Blade Runner, but I wasn’t certain enough to call them out. If they looked familiar to you, let me know about it in the comments.