This review first appeared in The Morpheus Tales Supplement #18.
If parapsychology intrigues you, and you get a kick out of espionage thrillers, then take a look at MIND MGMT, an ongoing comic book series from creator Matt Kindt of Pistol Whip and Super Spy fame. Dark Horse Originals markets MIND MGMT under their “Genius Redefining Genre” banner, which they reserve for alternative cartoonists tackling science fiction themes. Unlike a few of the other creators in that stable, Kindt is no greenhorn when it comes to speculative material, and the premise of his series is the most intriguing of the lot.
The back-story is a secret history that starts just before the First World War, when a pair of mystics establishes the titular Mind Management, a covert organization that specializes in psychic warfare. Mind Management’s agents, their handlers, and their enemies have various mental abilities that range from thought deletion to precognition. The comic follows the exploits of these spies to the present day, when the bulk of the series is set. MIND MGMT seems to have laid its premise bare by the end of the first issue. Although the main story would have benefited from a more gradual revelation of the nature of Mind Management, there are no doubt some mysteries left to be solved.
The protagonist of MIND MGMT is Meru, a writer at work on a true crime book about a series of perfect murders. While researching the crimes, she catches a psychic assassin who has the power to cloud the minds of investigators by obscuring the forensic evidence of his hits. Meru then turns her attention to the case of a planeload of people who suffer total amnesia midflight, but finds herself in the cross-hairs of agents eager to stop her prying.
Science fiction has explored the possibilities of parapsychology for decades now, and innumerable works have established a huge stock of different psychic powers over time, so it is interesting to see most of these tropes combined in one story, as well as a few additions of Kindt’s own creation. MIND MGMT also contains cogent ideas about conspiracies, subliminal advertising, and brainwashing that push the comic in the direction of political satire, but the focus always remains on the plot.
Kindt’s sketchy and stylized visuals might put off anyone expecting a more polished and realistic aesthetic to match the action-adventure subject matter. The bright water-colours give a softer look that contrasts with the often violent imagery. To promote sales of the monthly books, each issue of MIND MGMT has backup strips and other content that the publishers will exclude from the collected editions. The series presents itself as a found document, an after-action report drawn by a Mind Management agent, so there are plenty of secret messages hidden in the artwork, as well as mock advertisements filled with cryptograms for readers who enjoy such games. MIND MGMT has demonstrated great potential so far, but like any thriller its quality depends on the twists along the way and just how deep the mystery goes.