18 May, 2013


I don't want to review MIND MGMT, I waste enough time on that. I instead want to talk about the design of the first trade of Matt Kindt's current series. So if you want an actual review go to an actual website with actual writers (that make actual money). Beyond its questionable art, what MIND MGMT, is one of the best designed books on the market.

From the artwork, to the margins, to the covers, to even the introductory pages of the graphic novel, MIND MGMT is something to behold. It's something no one else is doing in comics. Well, maybe Hickman.

Hmmmm, yeah, probably Hickman.

What I mean is the contents and shape of the book besides the story. It's the actual form of the book. It also means things as basic as paper stock and font (by the way: This book has some excellent paper stock). Design, as I understand it, is that bit of a work of art between the practical, physical aspect and what you're taking in as a reader.

Does that make sense? No?

What I am most impressed by is how this book is clever enough to overcome the sloppiness of the linework. The shape of the book is as much a part of the book at Kindt's art or writing. It's embedded in there and it isn't done in the way that Hickman does it, which is far more bombastic and segmented. To mangle a joke from iFanboy, “Hickman loves his title pages, doesn't he?”

Hickman's little flourishes of design (ie: Being a thing that is neither quite art nor writing, yet is a part of the same whole) are bold statements. They are title cards. They are supertext. They're calling attention to what is going on and it's great when he does it. It's one of the little things that makes The Manhattan Projects such a wonder of a book and it's something that adds to his other books, even when they might be lacking.

I'm sure some graphic designer is shouting at me through his computer screen right now.Well, shout away. Go design a gig poster, jerk, I'm talking about comics.

You know that this book is something entirely different from the other comics. From the first moment you crack open the covers, you see a series of almost entirely blank pages with a single statement made out of what appears to a ripped-out newspaper headline.

 Where he could have shoved ads for other books, we instead have a torn newspaper headline reading “TURN BACK.” I won't go so far as to say that they're wasted, but they aren't far from it (Somewhere, I'm sure there's some Marvel or DC editor looking at this book doing the math on what those six pages would have cost them).

Besides being this distracting and spacious introduction it also serves a practical purpose that reflects on the story.The book is warning you not to read it. But, you paid for this fucker and you're going to turn it anyways.

YOUR LAST CHANCE” is the next page. You can't tell me what to do! You're just a book! And not even a Bible or a Howard Zinn book! You don't own me!"

And so you turn into the story, ignoring all warnings, like the character, like the world. There you are, getting brainwashed by the secret files of a crypto-agency and it's all your fault.

How cool is that?

It can't recall something like that outside of the Bioshock Infinite ending where you're forced to make a decision and I thought “What if I just turn this off? Don't I win? Don't I prove all of you wrong?” Maybe you do, but in both cases you miss out on some impressive storytelling.

By the way, that's not a real spoiler, so fuck you if you're acting like a wuss about this

It also understands that a trade paper back is something more than a compilation of single issues. In a world where writers and artists are attempting to emphasize the importance of the single issue, where guys like Ed Brubaker are creating original content specifically for their monthly books, it is exciting to see Matt Kindt take an opposing approach and treat the TPB as a form on its own. It isn't until all of these issues are thrown together into a single book that it stops being a serial, semi-disconnected story, but something bigger and distinct (that is also a serial story).

The wider conceit is, of course, that you are reading a manual published by organization MIND MGMT. It's a sub-conscious trick Kindt plays on his readers. They don't need to know what a mise en abyme or metatext or subliminal messaging is to know that they're reading something with some, not all, of its layers showing. It's a book confident and compitent enough to never have to use five-dollar academic words to get you to understand what those actual concepts are. It's a lesson I could use to learn.

MIND MGMT also exists as proof that a medium as low as the comic book doesn't have to act like it. Nothing has to be changed or sexed up, everything that make a comic book worthwhile is already there, it just needs to be brought out by someone who knows what they're doing. Matt Kindt isn't the only comic book creator working who knows how to do this, he's just the one that really makes me think about this. Read it for the interesting story about hidden psychic spies and hold onto it for the impressive lessons in graphic design. This also reminds me that I'm a self-hating snob. Thanks for that, Matt Kindt. 

Thanks for everything.

And speaking of sub-conscious advertising--

SIDE NOTE: There should be a rule: If it's in hardback, you get the back matter. I understand the reasons why this is so. I understand the practical reasons that retailers espouse and I understand the importance of disnguishing forms that Ed Brubaker makes. I get it. I still want my damn extras, though.

SIDE SIDE NOTE: I am of the opinion that knowing what a roman a clef or a bildungsroman is the kind of thing that improves your life considerably.

SIDE SIDE SIDE NOTE: But don't just take my word for it.