Sitting down to talk about Mind MGMT #34, with only two issues left in the series' primary run (and one of those has a stand-alone status), I am reminded again why I usually wait to review the trade collections: almost anything I could possibly say about Issue #34 would be a spoiler. That's just the way the series is. And that says something about the quality of storytelling we're getting as readers from Matt Kindt. The fact that almost any tiny detail could be part of the bigger picture and have wide implications, especially at this point in the series, stands.
So, GIANT SPOILER alert for Issue #34 below!!
That leads to my next problem, now that I've clearly stated the spoiler potential of any discussion of the issue, which is, what details out of probably thousands contained in the single issue should I talk about when, in their own way, they are all significant.
So, I'll just choose something to talk about, and that is the geography of the issue, taking place within the new Mind MGMT headquarters in Shang Hai, a setting that's a final pay off from the seeming side-story of Salvador Dali's filmmaking mishaps. I'll leave that one to the film and art historians, but I think we can talk more generally about the way in which the headquarters is a dream-space and mind-space where the power of suggestion generates changes and the power of thought can kill. The melting clocks remind me that the comic series is winding up and down, and yet, they are suspended and ambiguous like the events of this issue [Okay, one art history reference. Remember folks that the clocks are most famously from Dali's painting "The Persistence of Memory". That sounds like a pretty good description of Meru, for one thing…]
It seems to me that this structure is quite literally what we've been journeying towards all along in Mind MGMT as readers. We've seen whole cities destroyed by the powers of a tragically divided mind via Henry Lyme. We've seen agents destroy each other in brutal conflicts in the second half of the series as the new Mind MGMT took shape and the resistance including Meru and Lyme battled that trend. In short, we've seen the agents shape the world around them into violent expressions of their inner states. But now that bubble-like projection of influence becomes an entire world they move through. So, buckle up because things are getting as crazy as they have always had the potential to become under the right conditions.
We encounter so many settings, morphing and changing, and are promised menacingly that anyone who dies within this structure will be erased from existence. Never to have been. You have to wonder if that can impact the past, really. Even if it can only influence the present and future, it's like what was done to Meru when her memory was repeatedly erased by Lyme, but upon the entire world. What nightmares would arise based on that mass wiping of memory? What invisible scars would make the world a less stable place?
The environments we see changing are classic in many ways, a journey upward and through, a tortuous pathway that seems to be consciously attempting to weed out the agents seeking the upper reaches of the headquarters and a final showdown. On two occasions, in particular, we're shown/reminded that this environment we "see" and the agents "see" is not in some intrinsic way definite. There's the tremendously powerful and beautifully illustrated scene where Meru charges a group of gigantic opponents, one a samurai, and in her own transformed state appears as a sword-wielding goddess, chopping them down. And then we flip to a different level of reality or perception where she's just Meru in combat trousers and her opponents are just a bunch of guys in suits she's utterly destroyed in some nebulous way.
Then there are the upper reaches of the headquarters where the anti-agents (actually our protagonists) are told that they've been dosed with hallucinogenic drugs and it's already affecting them. They see stars and a strange lunar landscape, and though it's hard to conceive of that actually being somehow contained within the headquarters of Mind MGMT (though the library at Shangri-La didn't seem to ever end inside), it is entirely fitting that they should find themselves at high altitude, even off world, beyond the reach of any previous agents' furthest reach.
The changing landscape, the rope bridges, the imagined forest from a Tween novel appearing "real", the foes who pursue them, all place the anti-agents firmly in a psychological dream-scape that seems to convey even more about Mind MGMT than any happenings in the outside world. This is the guarded inner space that's a true reflection of their power: they create reality. It really doesn't matter what's going on outside the headquarters because all it takes is a twist or change inside and presto: the outer world is easily altered. We're right in the nerve center of things now in the series. And here's where the big conclusions need to happen that can affect the realities of the created world of the story. Matt Kindt is peeling back the layers of the story for us at this point to take us into a more amorphous zone where stories seem to come from.
I'm not making any predictions here because I think Mind MGMT is the least predictable comic series I am reading right now, one of the reasons I am totally hooked on it. But consider this: Meru's power seems to be to take away or contradict all the powers generated by other agents. And we've been told this is her association with truth and skepticism. Where is her skepticism now? What does she believe the headquarters or other agents can do? The headquarters are the sum and expression of potential powers. It makes sense that she, in particular needs to bring the place down and drain its force. But can she? That may depend on smaller details and factors than is comfortable to admit. In fact, the answer may be hidden in what we've already read and we'll be going back through the pages of the series with a fine-tooth comb in a couple of months' time to find the clues. It stands to reason because we know the story of Mind MGMT has never been linear. In a very real sense, we've already learned a lot about how the story is going to end.
Hannah Means-Shannon is EIC at Bleeding Cool and @hannahmenzies on Twitter