I will lay out the gist of it as best as I can:
Over the course of the last eighteen issues, Matt Kindt has introduced us to a wide array of Mind MGMT Agents, both American and Russian. The factions have been distinguished, each side bearing their respective past sins. Henry Lyme has, at times, been a bit of a wreck. He has had much to atone for and to varying levels of success. The Eraser, while steadfast in her ideology, has left craters of destruction in her wake. A conflict looms on the horizon, but, in the meantime we are witnessing the human fallout from the recruitment process. In that fallout, Meru made her choice to get back in the van and join up with Lyme’s ragtag team of former Mind MGMT Agents. The next on their list of candidates is Ella and like the cutest little Dr. Doolittle you’ve ever seen, Ella can empathize and communicate with animals. So they can then strap bombs onto their furry little bodies and assassinate people.
This all seems pretty straightforward. But if you’ve been reading this title, you know that in the hands of this particular creator, it is anything but. From the first issue, I have been most impressed with how much Matt Kindt gets me to care about his characters. From the cute to the grotesque, each person has a story that is, at some point, familiar. In the first issue of Book Four, we are given a heavy dose of sympathy. For once, we meet a person whom Mind MGMT sought out but can’t work with—not because she’s too crude or too aggressive, but because she’s too human or too kind. Which sets up an immediate conflict: how does this ruthless agency deal with a trainee who will not accept their training?
Interesting enough, a compromise is found. It requires more effort to avoid harm on the part of Ella and on her animal friends and further stress on her. At this point, I would like to mention that Ella is a preteen girl. Carrying this burden. One could imagine how this might cause her to become weary, but sadly for Ella a weary agent is a useless one. What to do? An on-the-spot lobotomy (not physically, of course) would most likely be the answer. But what happens when the person given that task is Henry Lyme? In that situation, the answer is freedom.
What Kindt quickly helps the reader understand is freedom, after years of being sheltered, breeds fear. Fear of the outside world. Fear of the possibility of the very idea of possibilities. But when you have your own personal animal entourage to keep you safe, at least travel and security aren’t part of that equation. Factor in a risk-free path granted by the psychic powers of your liberator, and the world is yours. But after a few years go by, the very freedom you were granted and the life of security among your animal friends becomes it’s own brand of isolation. Now, the twist on the twist: what if that last bit isn’t true at all? What if that life of isolation was actually you surrounded by the only friends you could every really trust? If that were true, you wouldn’t want some lady called Meru disrupting the natural order of things, would you? No, I think I might be content to tough it out with them in the woods, too. Who knows, though? Maybe our Queen of the Jungle might come in handy later on down the line. A cascade of raging animals to the rescue is something I would not mind seeing. Not at all.
After four issues of soul searching and atonement, Mind MGMT has begun to move the chess pieces. This new, unique jumping-on point feels like the stand-alone issues from previous months, while also moving the central narrative forward, a hybrid of sorts that lets the new readers know what to expect from the book’s creator. I’ve come to expect mind-bending stories paired with dream-like art that can not be found in any other book on the shelf.
Lastly, I would like to give an additional kudos to Matt Kindt for the continued efforts in giving the reader a little something extra in the text layered in the sides of the panels. This issue included the story of Ella, from what read like an animal’s point of view. It had a very base, instinctual feeling to it, which matched the feeling of communicating with animals. In previous installments we have seen samples of training manuals, novels, and what seems like the story of the story we’re currently reading about. All of which provide further insight into what we are seeing on the page. It is things like this that make this book truly stand out among the other critically acclaimed books being published.
I have said this before, and I will continue to say it until a larger portion of the comic world finally catches on—Mind MGMT is elevating the medium of comic books to high art. This issue gets a near-perfect 9.5 out of 10.
Mike Sains is a Staff Writer at Capeless Crusader. When he isn’t writing, he’s podcasting at various places online. When he isn’t podcasting, he’s collecting comic books, FunkoPop! figures, and vinyl records. You can hear him on Geek Girls, Nerd Boys, The Tower of Sour, and The Inverse Delirium, all available on iTunes. Follow him on Twitter @MikeSains.