Monday, December 23, 2013

Opening Contract - Mind MGMT #2

For the final Opening Contract of 2013 I’ve turned to Mind MGMT #2, created, illustrated and written by Matt Kindt from Dark Horse Comics.

In a previous column I mentioned that comic book panels “are singular units of information, but they only ever reveal their true meaning and potential when they’re given context, when they’re juxtaposed against other images and the threads of the narrative as a whole”.

We’ve seen countless examples of this in comics, but what Kindt does here is seemingly for a very specific effect that speaks to some of the themes and ideas particular to Mind MGMT itself.
In his previous series, Super Spy, Kindt had a number of small stories that could be read as self contained. But when put together they formed a larger tapestry, one which changed and shifted our perceptions towards characters and events as new revelations and points of view came to light. It was a device that was perfectly suited to the espionage genre. Kindt takes that one step further with Mind MGMT.


The plot of Mind MGMT follows Meru, a reporter who starts untangling the threads of conspiracy behind a mysterious airline flight that leaves everyone on board with no memory. Her efforts lead her to a shadowy intelligence organization full of operatives who cannot be killed, operatives who can destroy and read mens minds.

So, whilst those elements of mystery and intrigue from Super Spy still apply, Kindt is also playing with themes and concepts surrounding the mind, dreams and the nature of perception.
The opening panel of Issue #2 plays on the mystery, danger and intrigue aspects of the espionage genre, continuing the chase that ended the previous issue, thrusting the reader straight into the action. The panel is wide giving the chase scope and scale. Meru leans forward on the motorbike as Bill Falls the CIA agent helping her clutches her waist tightly. Kindt covers the top part of the panel with a dark blur trailing away from the bike suggesting incredible speed and lending the image a sense of excitement. The buildings either side of the road are distorted, angled towards us, further emphasizing the idea of speed.

If we look back to Issue #1, we see that Kindt begins with a sequence depicting a man and woman fighting then struggling before they both fall from a balcony towards the street below. We then cut to see the two figures in the background, seconds from impact, as around them the city goes to hell. Molotov cocktails are being thrown, fights and rioting have broken out – pandemonium in full swing.

It’s a fantastic opening for a first issue, albeit one that makes total sense until another four issues pass. It’s only later, in Issue #5 that we learn the chaos was a result of the abilities of Mind MGMT operative Henry Lyme. We see the scene again with a new understanding and context (shades of Super Spy once again), a fantastic tool for a series that constantly plays with ideas of perception and memory.

But Kindt does something else with selected panels and imagery in Mind MGMT, infusing the series with an eeriness that sticks in the mind long after you’ve set the comic down. Kindt does this by re-using (and suggesting) key images, phrases and actions, with the opening panel of Issue #2 being but one example.

In Issue #1 we have the couple tumbling to their doom. Towards the back end of the very same issue we get two different panels (on the same page) of Meru speeding towards us on her motorbike [IMG]. These panels act as ‘echoes’ of the one that opens the next issue. At the end of the first issue, the CIA agent who offers his help to Meru at the end of the first issue is Bill Falls, a name that immediately evokes connotations of the imagery at work in the first scene of the issue.

In turn, the opening panel of Issue #3 is Meru and Falls on a motor scooter. The angle and location are different, but the basic action is the samefamiliar, yet different. Later, in Issue #6, when the two enemy agents that are pursuing Meru are neutralized by Lyme, they fall backwards off the boat they are on. Kindt angles and frames the action from above and slightly off kilter, the bodies of the assailants almost look like they’re falling backwards into a void, suggestive of the idea of falling.

Towards the end of Issue #2 Meru gets a sense of familiarity about a location, traveling up a set of stairs in a fit of curiosity. At the top she comes across a grey-haired lady at a desk, tapping away endlessly at a typewriter. Meru tries to start a dialogue with her but the lady freaks out, backing away until she topples backwards over the balcony rail behind her.

Even Mind MGMT Secret Files #1 (a prequel to the main series) features a mirror of that opening sequence with the cover depicting a Mind MGMT operative known as The Bear falling backwards off a rooftop, away from the reader. Again, it’s only at the end of this issue that we understand the imagery and are able to place it in some kind of context. Despite not fully knowing the meaning, we seem familiar with the image.

Rather than juxtapose images Mind MGMT takes fragments, abstractions and hints of various images and scatters them throughout its narrative. Kindt chooses to suggest some deeper sense of something working behind the scenes, forcing the reader to question everything, to connect the dots themselves as well as giving them a growing sense of familiarity and déjà vu. Just like a dream. Just like Meru’s own experiences.


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