How often, as people, do we see the bigger scope of things? The deeper levels of nature and reality that permeate everything around us? How often do we typically look outside the box? Whenever we read comic books or graphic novels, our eyes tend to inherently focus on the inner square frame of the page and the panels inside it. We typically follow the left-to-right, up-and-down reading order because it’s what we are intrinsically trained to do. Most people believe you can’t just throw out the rules when it comes to paneling design and whatnot. There’s a specific coherency needed in order to make sense of a comic, which is easiest to portray through simplistic square-based design (although there are some unconventional artists out there who throw caution to the wind like it’s nothing yet still tend to follow that symmetrical page layout).
But what does any of this have to do with Mind MGMT?
Mind MGMT tends to follow the square, grid-based design to a point, but then it breaks pace by asking you (I won’t say forcing because it is the reader’s choice if they want the extra supplemental materials) to literally read outside that inner square box which contains the panels. This happens in just about every issue of the series so far. This issue even deviates from the outside-the-box formula a little by adding a little flip-book style comic on the bottom of the page (its purpose is unknown at this point, but it will presumably become a future plot-point if earlier issues are any indication). It also includes the standard sidebars of text on the top and left sides of the page, one of which has been a standard of the series since issue one (top-bar text) and one which provides a field guide on how a special kind of Mind Management agent is supposed to operate. All of these supplemental materials give the comic the extra value needed to justify the higher price-tag.
The whole package is really innovative in that it both follows the traditional element of comic creating and intentionally subverts it. Even the end-to-end cover pages are to be read and looked into as something important to the ongoing story. Every little piece counts.
Of course most of this would be nothing if the story itself wasn’t any good. Thankfully Mind MGMT has not had a terrible issue since the start (I say this partly out of subjective bias, and partly because it’s true). Every issue has managed to check off my list of criteria that qualifies something as “good”. Even though it’s a one-shot by nature, it still manages to contribute to the main storyline like the best TV shows do (I say this because Mind MGMT has been optioned as a TV show). The story is portrayed by a sort-of scratchy, hand-drawn art style similar in style and tone to Jeff Lemire’s work but with a few key differences that really make it stand out. Kindt’s art is a little rougher around the edges and makes frequent use of muted colors and shades of brown and tan. It may not necessarily be extremely detailed like mainstream comic works but it gives the book a unique visual flair among an industry dominated by copycat artists. Even Kindt’s approach to the art is very outside-the-box in nature.
When critically approaching comics, one has to think about “what has this done differently from before and what makes it stand out from the rest?” Most readers by default are comfortably inclined to put up with the same old crap, so to take a critical look at something without fear of being scrutinized incessantly by its fan-base is a difficult thing to do. Mind MGMT manages to do something entirely different from the previous issue and stays relatively different from the rest of the medium of comics as a whole. Its outside-the-box nature gives it a uniquely special quality that most of the books from the big two could only dream of having. In essence, Mind MGMT has managed to produce both engaging single issues and an intriguing storyline. I highly recommend it as one of the best books on the stands right now.