Today, Patrick and Mikyzptlk are discussing Mind MGMT 18, originally released January 22nd, 2014.
Patrick: I got back to the Midwest over Christmas – neither of my sisters live there anymore, but our parents do, so it made a handy centralized location for us to all be together. This means that I was also able to spend some time with my niece Leah; she’s four, tells people she’s fives, loves Spider-Man and independently started calling me “Silly Uncle Patrick.” One day, we went to downtown Chicago for high tea at the Drake Hotel. It was full-on Chicago-cold, so none of us were too eager to walk around the loop after tea. But, like, what else are you going to do? After much protest, we got Leah to bundle up in her jacket and mittens and hat and scarf and shuffled her outside. The adults all went into city-walkin’ mode; understandably, we wanted to minimize our time spent outside. But not Leah. She’d take three steps and then stop to crane her neck so she could see the tops of the tall buildings she was moments away from shouting about. My favorite observation of hers from that afternoon was “some buildings are churches, but others aren’t.” I lived in Chicago for four years, the buildings don’t impress me, and the cold is a familiar nuisance, but this kid was having an experience. Matt Kindt taps into that same childhood enthusiasm in issue 18 of Mind MGMT, letting the reader be excited for one girl’s experience – injecting a familiar concept with renewed vigor.
She’s a sweet kid, loves her brother, reads a lot of books and can communicate with animals. Well, sorta. She can sense their emotions, and they can sense hers. This makes her special power something of a liability as any nearby animal comes out to try to connect with her, so pet stores and zoos are basically unmanageable. Ella’s parents take her to a bunch of different doctors, and it’s only a matter of time before Mind Management steps in and recruits her to weaponize animals. Naturally, Ella doesn’t much care to send her animal friends off on suicide missions, so she teaches them how to do their jobs without being caught up as collateral damage. But soon, even this is too much for Ella, and she stages a breakout with her animal friends. And while Mind Management recognizes this as a loss, they chalk it up as an acceptable loss – let the kid be happy, right?
That message — let the kid be happy — seems to be at the heart of this issue. It’s a pretty horrific scene when Kindt shows us exactly how Mind Management is using these poor animals. He fires them off in rapid succession, and the supertitle that appears above each animal shows Ella’s emotional reaction (which is a change from what we’ve seen previously, which is her reading the animal’s emotion). Those labels start sympathetic but quickly utilitarian – sure, the first one is a martyr, but the last one is just a weapon.
All Ella needs to do to fix this is just be her perceptive, sensitive self. That’s adorable. There’s all kinds of Mind MGMT that’s being mined here, but it’s only interesting because we get to watch a child’s experience of it. Kindt reflects that childishness in the notes typed in the margins – rather than being the usual clinical, analytical notes, they’re the kind of probing questions you’d ask a child, like “why do you think that is?” and “how does that make you feel?” It’s like even the form of the book is subject to Ella’s enchanting perspective.
My favorite moment in the issue is when the whole page is hijacked by this perspective. Ella presents us with a Richard Scarry-esque overview of what goes on at Mind Management. There’s all kinds of intriguing grown-up stuff happening in this image — check out the dudes with knives in the “Immortal Training” area in the basement — but Ella sees them as anthropomorphic pigs and dogs.
If that’s what the place looks like to a kid, I’m not convinced I need to see it from any other perspective. Ella’s allowed to leave before she has too grim of a view on this place and our regularly appearing agents, making this an oddly hopeful issue of this series.
Mik, I’ll leave you with a more adult question to ponder. Why do you think Lyme is so willing to cater to Ella’s whims? It’s possible that he’s just as much of a sucker for a childlike wonder as I am, but we also see Ella project a bear’s head on to him. What I’m asking is: is she somehow controlling him with the same powers that let her command dolphins to attack pirates? And furthermore, what’s the difference?
Follow-up, far-less-serious, question: what’s your favorite drawing of a hilariously adorable animal in this issue? For me it’s a tie between the dog, cat and mouse that want to follow Ella home from the pet store and that damn insipid koala.
Mikyzptlk: To be honest, I still feel like I’m missing a lot of pieces of the Mind MGMT puzzle. This is partly due to the fact that I’ve only recently started reading this series, but it’s also because I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to feel like I’m missing some pieces anyway. When I read Lyme in this issue, I assumed that he was being nice and sympathetic because he was being a nice and sympathetic kind of dude. However, Patrick, I find your question incredibly intriguing.
I mean, Ella can communicate with animals and since humans are animals too you’ve got to consider that there was at least the possibility of mind control in her interactions with Lyme. That said, Ella explains her interactions with animals in the following scene thusly:
This suggests to me that Ella never considered herself to be in control of the animals. Of course, since this issue is from the perspective of a child, it is entirely possible she was actually controlling their actions, but that her child-like adorableness prevented her from seeing things in such terms. And while that is certainly cute, it’s also pretty fucking terrifying.
Here we have an innocent little kid with the power to weaponize any and every animal on the planet. That’s scary y’all. Add to that the potential to control the human animal as well? We may be talking about the most dangerous person we’ve ever been introduced to in this book to date (or at least since I’ve been reading it). The more I think about this, the more I think of Ella’s powers in terms of “mind-control.” Take a look at the following scene. It’s just after she’s somehow convinced Lyme to let her and her animal friends go.
Walking “across the country” is probably a childlike exaggeration, but the fact that “no one noticed or cared” is a big sign to me that she was not only persuading her animal friends to follow her, but that she was also persuading any human animals to look the other way. That is some serious power, folks. I suppose then, that it’s a good thing that Ella is seemingly happy to be living in the depths of the Chitwan National Park.
Of course, I’ve just got to assume that there is no way to introduce a powerhouse character like this and then never use her again, right? Nothing in this issue tells me that anything bad will happen to Ella, but then again, as Patrick noted, this was an oddly hopeful issue. I’m not trying to be a Debby Downer, but I’ve been reading this series for a bit to get the sense that this can’t simply end in smiles and teddy bears. Although, for Ella’s sake, I hope it does.
Oh, and Patrick, as for my favorite hilariously adorable animal in this issue? I’d have to go with Bob, the slightly creepy lizard dude. He’s a lizard named Bob! I can’t not love that.
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