Digital Comics Reviews: Mind MGMT, Insufferable

It seems that every week there's another step in the direction of digital comics distribution as [...]

It seems that every week there's another step in the direction of digital comics distribution as the main (or at least a more substantial) means of getting non-Big Two, non-superhero work out into the marketplace, and this week, Mark Waid and John Rogers have taken that to the next level with the launch of Thrillbent, which went live yesterday with Insufferable #1 by Waid and longtime Irredeemable collaborator Peter Krause. At the same time, Matt Kindt's MIND MGMT, which will officially launch both digitally and in print on May 23, saw the release yesterday of MIND MGMT: Secret Files, a digital one-shot that serves as a prequel or primer to the upcoming series from Dark Horse. MIND MGMT, when Kindt talked to about it, was described as a book that would function differently digitally versus print, with a lean toward print. there will be extra features in the printed issues, as well as an overall physical look and feel that will make the paper copies something that fans of the series will prefer. This digital-only opening chapter, then, will likely appear in some collected edition. It's also still set up as though somebody took a normal comic book and scanned it into a computer. Fans of Kindt's remarkable work like 3 Story and Revolver will undoubtedly enjoy MIND MGMT. His art style is loose and casual enough to make the reader think, "I could do that," which is a great quality to have as it makes the work approachable. But it's also clean and technically proficient. Readers looking to test their theory would likely discover that, like the work of Cliff Chiang, DC Animated Universe or other works that fall more to the iconic than realistic side of Scott McCloud's pyramid, it isn't as easy to reproduce as it looks. The story itself is something like the old Charles Bronson picture Telefon, which revolved around Russian sleeper agents buried so deep in American culture that even they didn't know they were undercover. Revived for action by a keyphrase, they took to killing their targets. The difference? Both the Russian and American agents featured in MIND MGMT do their killing with mental powers, and much of the story revolves around a woman who got a "data dump" from one of the operatives in the moments preceding his death. Ultimately it's an enjoyable short story with some terrific art, which looks to lead into a promising series. Next week, and then the week after that, there will be more free chapters leading up to the release of MIND MGMT #1. Sign up for Dark Horse Digital and pick them up, as this series has huge potential for greatness.

About the same length is Mark Waid and Peter Krause's much-anticipated Insufferable, the story of a teenage sidekick who grows up to be an ungrateful glory hog. It felt shorter and shallower, though, and not just because of the rich textures in MIND MGMT that lend it an epic feel beyond what you get with most superhero comics. The characters certainly fit in with what Waid has done in the recent past with Irredeemable and Incorruptible; they're very human superheroes who would feel more at home in the Giffen-DeMatteis era of the Justice League than with the more majestic, iconic take on the team that's been prominent since Morrison reinvented the brand. And that's maybe the problem--there's nothing new here. in a genre where every character is ultimately derivative of Superman or Batman, Waid hasn't endeavored to make anything new. Instead, he takes his substantial prowess as a writer and a supremely talented collaborator in Krause and just hops from reinterpreting Superman to reinterpreting Batman. It feels, frankly, a bit lazy of Waid and he's just too good for it. It seems he's more focused on redefining the medium through admittedly-clever tricks with page layout than he is interested in telling strong, character-driven stories. That isn't to say there's nothing going for this story. Waid rarely writes a bad superhero story and this is not one of those times. Peter Krause has a great eye for motion and visual storytelling that overcomes the fact that the costume designs on his superheroes are fairly pedestrian (although that problem goes hand-in-hand with the idea of the characers being expies). The characters are well-enough fleshed out that I'll come back for more--especially if the story is still free when it hits again. But with a short chapter that reads even shorter, it seems likely that anything less than a spectacular opening for Thrillbent might lose Waid a number of readers who would otherwise find the work engaging. It'll be interesting to see--assuming that any retailers carry it--how this book sells in the eventual collected print edition and what, if any, changes are made to accommodate the format when it's collected.