After first gaining widespread recognition on the fantastic Top Shelf espionage series Pistolwhip
(with writer Jason Hall), Matt Kindt
has been on a run that's made him one of my favorite stars in the comics medium. With his uniquely impressionistic cartooning, subtle watercolors, intuitive sense of storytelling logic, and improbable mixture of sci-fi, espionage, and magical realism
, the cartoonist has created some of the most memorably idiosyncratic graphic novels of the last decade, including Super Spy
, 3 Story: The Secret History of the Giant Man
, and Revolver.
urrently the writer of DC Comics' Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.
, a mainstream favorite of just about everyone with a blog. But over at Dark Horse
Kindt has been writing and drawing the most fascinating, mysterious, and unconventional title of 2012: MIND MGMT
. As issue #5 drops this week we wanted to introduce Kindt's bewildering world of mind control, shadowy organizations, immortal secret agents, and talking dolphins.
MIND MGMT is one of those titles that is difficult to properly describe, but that's partly why it's so cool. If I were to say "MIND MGMT is about a government organization with agents that have mastered all the latent potential of the human mind," you'd probably respond with, "Thanks, John, that only sounds like a thousand books I've already read, none of which were memorable or remarkable in any way. Your opinion sucks and I hate you. Lose some weight." So let me try this: MIND MGMT is about the world's greatest mystery, the shadow history of every major event in modern history, and a woman with no memory chasing down the ghosts of truth all across the globe.
In 1965, the US Air Force-commissioned American Institute for Research released a study titled "Psychological Phenomena Applicable to the Deployment of Psychological Weapons," a report on the feasibility of psychological warfare. Many of the techniques discussed are currently employed in non-lethal warfare.
Two years ago, an entire commercial flight was suddenly stricken with amnesia. With no warning and in in mid-flight, 120 people had their memories completely wiped. On the two-year anniversary of the so-called "Amnesia Flight 815," none of the victims have been able to recall any aspect of their prior lives. Only one passenger was spared: a seven-year-old boy whose life was nonetheless destroyed because he was travelling with his parents, who still have no memory of him ever being born. Of the 121 passengers who boarded the plane, only 120 officially debarked. One passenger named Henry Lyme seems to have disappeared in the air, with no record of him ever getting off the plane and all attempts to find him since being unsuccessful.
Before stepping foot on that same flight, our hero Meru was an author of the best-selling novel "Premeditated," which cracked a series of unsolved cases that a number of detectives called "perfect murders." Her world was wide open, her prospects aplenty. Two years later and she's barely scraping out a life, with no money, no prospects, no memory of the foster parents who raised her, no significant other, and no significance. While watching a TV special on the anniversary of the Amnesia Flight, Meru decides that with her next book she will do what no one else has been able to: find Henry Lyme, the man she believes to be the key to the mystery of Flight 815. Although she doesn't know it yet, it's the most dangerous decision Meru's ever made.
The CIA's MK-Ultra project practiced behavior modification through hypnosis, sensory deprivation, sexual abuse, and secretive administration of LSD. Former Nazi scientists were involved in the program.
Meru is on Lyme's faint trail. Teamed up with a CIA agent named Bill Falls who's after the people who killed his partner, they narrowly dodge several assassination attempts by "The Immortals," who seem to be able to recover from any type of injury, no matter how severe. Meru's path is a strange and tumultuous one, taking her to a town in Mexico where an entire adult population simply let themselves starve to death. She meets a psychic writer in Zanzibar who has been typing on one roll of paper for perhaps years, and later encounters "miracle dolphins" in China who can read and spell. With every step the danger seems more acute, the mystery deeper, the questions only multiplying. This is only four issues in, folks. The insanity and intrigue is just going to keep ratcheting up from here.
The Navy Marine Mammal Program trains dolphins to detect and mark sea mines and other objects.
Though Kindt has reined-in some of the more unconventional storytelling techniques he's known for, MIND MGMT is still peppered with his simple-but-effective tricks, codes, and puzzles. There are little clues and optical illusions to be found in each issue: The background is as important as anything happening in the foreground, as it's typically filled with characters who aren't properly introduced until later. Even the blue borders of Mind Mgmt "field reports" are important. The letters column also gets involved in the fun:"The Official Letter Column and Correspondence Re: Mind Management." ("Help me." Aaaahhhh!!) There are even additional stories on the back covers of each issue.
The Lost reference in the naming of "Amnesia Flight 815," intentional or not, is a fitting one. Indeed, Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof has a pull quote on the new issue of MIND MGMT. Fans of the long-form supernatural mystery have a lot to love in the Chinese puzzle box that is this series: the nature and history of the organization, its training center Shangri-La, its impact on the world and corruption of youth, and the role of the powerful but withdrawn Henry Lyme are mysteries that are only beginning to unfold. But perhaps the biggest mystery of the book is Meru herself. How did she come to solve a series of seemingly random murders that took place all over the globe? How is that she seems to be so adept at evading the greatest spies in the world? Who are her birth parents and why does she only seem to have one name?
The Stargate Project studied military applications of remote viewing -- the practice of psychically projecting and observing distant locations. Though cancelled in 1995, the program noted a "statistically significant effect."
In Hindu mythology, Mount Meru is the center of the universe and home of Lord Brahma and all the devas. Was Meru the target of the Flight 815 mind-wipe? Why aren't you reading it and finding out for yourself?
MIND MGMT issues #1-5 are available in finer comics shops and digitally from Dark Horse Digital, where you can also read the pre-release MIND MGMT Secret Files parts 1, 2 and 3 for free. This teaser series from earlier this year offers additional details on the perplexing history of the Mind Mgmt organization and the series protagonist Meru. Below is a preview of issue #5, courtesy of Dark Horse.