No one could ever accuse Mind MGMT of being easy reading. Its first story arc “The Manager” took full advantage of the comic book format to simultaneously present multiple streams of information. Every piece of real estate is crammed with data: The covers, margins, even the marks on the pages. Needless to say, the story benefits from a multiple careful readings and a willingness to find hidden patterns in all the visual cacophony. Add to that, there’s the cruel irony in returning its protagonist Meru back to square one at the end of the arc, wiping all her memories of the events. “The Futurist” is no less dense a narrative. It’s primary advantage is that to the reader who’s made the effort, this second arc is made easier by being an extension of the first, expanding on the information already gleamed and moving the story forward with new revelations and characters. Both form into one huge chunk of a story, and a more rewarding experience than most of the conspiracy-laden serials that have lately become popular television fare.
At the heart of Mind MGMT is Meru. While she started out investigating “Amnesia Flight #815,” which led to her uncovering the activities of the clandestine Mind MGMT and its top agent Henry Lyme, the comic kept dropping hints that Meru herself has a mysterious past and vast untapped psychic abilities. Much of the dramatic tension comes from the fact that she’s largely dependent on Henry to find the answers but the reader is already aware that he is not to be trusted. As the two set about gathering the ragtag crew of former agents (see my review of #7), it becomes apparent that his former colleagues don’t completely trust him either. Nonetheless, they end up forming a kind of substitute family to Meru, particularly the world-weary Duncan, the titular futurist. His codename comes from his ability to instantaneously read the minds of those around him for up to a 15 mile radius, which has the effect of allowing him to perfectly foresee all their short-term future actions. For Duncan, this clairvoyance has made his life and relationships dull and predictable. The character was introduced way back in the first issue, but now provides a skeptical counterpoint to Henry’s manipulations. When the comic presents his unhappy backstory, his thoughts and impressions are cataloged on the side of the pages next to the panels instead of integrated into the image, unlike in most comic books.
But what occupies the margins in the earlier chapters are excerpts from Meru’s true-crime book “Premeditated,” which tells the story of a woman named Julianne Verve who murdered her husband and two children. The words in the book uncannily mirror the actions in the panels. And as Meru’s quest progresses, this interaction makes increasingly evident that her personal connection to Mind MGMT predates her own investigation of it. But since so much text is strangely not incorporated into the panels as captions but pasted on the side, the overall effect is not that of a work created by a singular vision but an assemblage of story clippings pasted together. This impression is further compounded by the treatment of the comic pages themselves. As with The Manager, the pages in The Futurist draw attention to the use of the comic book format by employing blue border markings similar to those found in illustration boards. A few pages have been torn out while others have been mysteriously redacted. The comic itself is an imperfect document - incomplete, heavily edited, and an unreliable record of events. Much like the works fashioned by Mind MGMT's powerful psychics.
Even though Mind MGMT seems to relish drowning the reader in a mass of information, the plot as narrated within the comic proper is actually very propulsive - an exciting globe-trotting adventure that takes its cast from around the United States to North Africa, to the legendary Shangri-la - Mind MGMT’s secret headquarters hidden amongst snow-capped peaks. And for those with enough patience, the payoff answers a few questions about Meru, which finally has her stepping out of Henry Lyme’s shadow.