A bit of context—since this is the third installment of a three-part arc—paraphrased from the teaser bio that appears in this issue:
Jim Albright was a superhero inventor who disappeared in 1944 after a brief career in the burgeoning field of vigilante fisticuffs.
And now he has returned.
If that doesn’t sell you, the good cap’n can be seen on this month’s cover humbling polar bears with his fists.
Also, the issue begins in a classic mad scientist’s lab, all gears and dials and lightning, one man cheerfully electrocuting another in the name of science while a little girl looks on, her face full of pride and delight. The caption reads, “My father was a great man. A genius.”
Finally, there are characters with names like Fury Shark and Phang.
On the other hand, the tagline on this issue’s cover is a tired cliché, “Revenge is a dish best served cold!”, and the writing never gets much more clever than that, added to which the story is neither charmingly quaint in its nostalgic treatment of a long-ago hero nor boldly daring and innovative in its modernity.
I am just about as predisposed to enjoying something like this as one can be, and yet I feel no particular regret at having missed the first two parts of this tale.
Art Baltazar and his co-writer Franco team up to bring us the men, women and critters of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, here reimagined in the tradition of Jill Thompson’s Lil’ Endless and…well…Art Baltazar’s Tiny Titans as aggressively cute Muppet Babies-esque toddlers with diminutive bodies and implausibly oversized heads.
For all the delight I initially felt in response to Itty Bitty Hellboy, a little of this kind of thing goes a long way; I might prefer to see Hellboy designed this way for toys and other merchandise (or perhaps in a brief, hallucinatory scene in the next live-action Hellboy film) rather than in full, stand-alone comic books. Still, the marriage of a kid-friendly, cartoony aesthetic with Hellboy and his colleagues and foes is an inspired one, and any Mike Mignola fan or cute shit enthusiast will find much to admire in these adorably silly pages.
Having never heard of Mind MGMT before today—to suggest that I am “out of the loop” would be understating things a bit; I haven’t read three new comic books in a sitting since 2007, I almost suspect that this title, surreal and unsettling as it aims to be, perhaps benefits from this reviewer’s 14-issue gap. Much as starting a David Lynch film halfway through is somehow fitting, reading this paranoid, moody, summary-defying narrative from issue 15 only adds to its ambiance.
The story, of which I understood precious little, calls to mind Chuck Palahniuk’s Lullaby and the Dharma Initiative from TV’s Lost, as well as traces of Inception. I would hesitate to label Mind MGMT a success, necessarily, but it is as unnerving and evocative in its better moments as some of the stranger, creepier works of Daniel Clowes, and it’s certainly the most effective comic book I read this week.
Which makes it the most effective comic book I’ve read in six years, I suppose.