Monday, July 9, 2012

Mind MGMT #2
Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and “Get” the Art

Despite my best efforts at an active stout resistance, Mind MGMT ensnared me with the brutal effectiveness of a Cold War Soviet style reeducation regiment in a Siberian gulag.
Matt Kindt controls all creative aspects of this book (story, art, color, letters) and coalesces them with such skill that, even with my extreme reservations and narrow and flawed expectations, I’ve become a convert. Fellow comic-book comrades, trust your comic book creators (especially independent creator-owners).

Mind MGMT relays the story of the journalist Meru as she treks from city to city searching for the allure of clay pots, and dolphins while being pursued by immortal assassins. Somehow mass memory loss, psionics, and secret organizations connect to integral parts of the plot too, but the details and roles of these elements remains very hazy. Ask again later.

How Love Arrives for a Hated Art:

Story indulges in a tantric relation with the art in this book.

A swift comic-shelf-browsing glance causes the art to strike the eyes as puerile with no sharp and consistent application of perspective and physical proportion (heads are too big, characters sport Muppet arms, and walls dissipate into flaccid ink washes). The lines are loose while details and characters appear to be laid on the page with sloppy and rushed swipes of the pen and brush.

But these reactions stem from an inept and fast 2-3 page glimpse of a book half-heartedly pulled from a shelf, and this loathing changes once I indulge in the story’s words.

Mind MGMT weaves an atmosphere of an existential noir detective tale. The mood of Mind MGMT could easily host Philip Marlowe drinking his morning coffee, or scotch. The works of John Shade and the brutality of Donald Westlake’s Parker could also coexist with Meru and the agencies of Mind MGMT.  Kindt weaves hard-edged desperation in his comic, through the apt collusion of images and words.

On pages 8-13 where Perrier (a mentally askew Mind MGMT agent) types and types and types and types Kerouac style on one continuous roll of paper through a typewriter until Meru’s arrival causes her to back over the balcony railing and pitch herself to the ground. Why? We don’t know. Meru’s reaction, after an initial scream of “No!,” involves asking “What is going on?” and sifting through Perrier’s typed scroll where she discovers the key command:  “Talk to the dolphins.” There’s little concern given towards Perrier, and far more questions raised rather than answered with this scene from issue 2.

This same feel of disregard and perplexity again is repeated on pages 20-21. A man watches Perrier plummet onto the pavement and the immortals enter the building while drinking espresso and smoking a cigarette before declaring “No, I’m out of those games” and then he walks away still possessing some hesitancy about his choice as show by Kindt’s 6 panel page with unvarying background.

Sharp clean bright color art would be out of place in this book. Instead of adding to the subtle oppression and confusion perpetuated by the plot, a style like Jim Lee’s work on the X-Men or Justice League would rob the reader of the full mind jolt of Mind MGMT. The surreal proportions of Kindt’s characters not only fit with the tone of the story, but actively work to enhance the story’s evocative power. The ink lines that initially struck me as hasty, when paired with the words and events in the panels have turned expressive and lively and add to the tension Meru feels as she dashes through the pages and propagates the paranoia that gnaws the mind when one begins questioning the reliability of one’s senses…or even when one reads about a character questioning the reliability of her senses. The skewed proportions and vanishing support lines in the art bolster the sinister sensation of the world not connecting or merging as expected.   

Gestalt theory’s “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” works wonders akin to Kool-Aid in Dixie cups at capturing and keeping an audience. The plot, the art, the dialogue, the characters, the colors, the presentation and meta-reading activities (Kindt offering a contest for finding planted clues in each issue will lead readers to a MindMGMT webpage) unite more tightly than any coupling described in the Kama Sutra to produce an ideal comic book reading experience. 

The Joys of Unknown Plots (in fiction)

While the absence of conventional art and spandex may not agitate most comic-book readers, the absence of a clear plot does tend to carry its own unique set of annoyances to an audience.  When the majority of questions about a story result in repeated replies of “I don’t know,” questioners may begin to suspect that they’re wasting time reading scrambled nonsense. While the plot to Mind MGMT proves difficult to relay, Kindt does a masterful job at giving the reader enough details to ground the story and orient the reader while leaving a plethora of questions and hints at plot possibilities to maintain his audience's curiosity and excitement.

The obscure elements of Mind MGMT stoke a sense of wonder and structure a world with labyrinthine potential. A page in Kindt’s comics calls to “[f]ollowers of obsolete unthinkable trades, doodling in Etruscan, addicts of drugs not yet synthesized, black marketers of World War III, excisors of telepathic sensitivity, osteopaths of the spirit, investigators of infractions denounced by bland paranoid chess players, servers of fragmentary warrants taken down in hebephrenic shorthand charging unspeakable mutilations of the spirit, officials of unconstituted police states, brokers of exquisite dreams and nostalgia tested on the sensitized cells of junk sickness and bartered for raw materials of the will, drinkers of the Heavy Fluid sealed in translucent amber of dreams” (45-46). A similar frantic and lyrical madness of both characters and ideas populate Mind MGMT as can be found in Burroughs’s Naked Lunch. Certainly the text may disturb, but, even if the eyes remain truculently closed, the unknown elements will engage and promise a myriad of prospects limited only by a reader’s own dreamy creativity.

Art and story meld into an ideal gestalt in a way that wouldn’t be possible with any other style than the one Kindt utilized for the pages of this comic book. Teased out and separated, neither art nor story could absorb a reader so completely. For the absorbed ones who feel Mind MGMT’s paranoia slouching them to madness, some proverbs for paranoids extracted from Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (the novel from which the title of this blog was plumbed) may sooth the mental distress caused by Kindt’s ongoing series:

  1. You may never get to touch the Master, but you can tickle his creatures.
  2. The innocence of the creatures is in inverse proportion to the immorality of the Master.
  3. If they cane get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.
  4. You hide, they seek.
  5. Paranoids are not paranoids because they’re paranoid, but because they keep putting themselves, fucking idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations.

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