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Mara #2 (Image): I gave Ming Doyle some static in the review of the first issue about various aspects of her art, but you can detect marked improvement here. While I didn’t like the design of the jet fighters doing a flyover or the ugliness of the handguns in the first issue, I really like the design of the corporate jet that Mara and Ingrid find themselves on in this issue. I also gave her some grief over how the security team’s physical posturing was depicted. It’s better here, but they’re still kind of stiff and problematic when attempting to control the crowd in a couple shots. For the most part though, I feel like she settled on a comfortable figure scale to operate most of the script with and the results are very lean and consistent and I find myself enjoying the art more. On the script side, Mara’s secret is out globally and her team attempts some spin control. I know that at the time Brian Wood wrote this script, the Lance Armstrong stuff hadn’t really broke fully yet, but the timing is now serendipitous and I thought it was interesting when they discussed the public being willing to forgive nearly any celebrity transgression, so long as they don’t lie about it. The best part for me was lines like “Point is, it’s not really much of a contract when they can terminate anytime.” You have to wonder how much of that is informed by Wood having navigated the shark infested waters of corporate comics. Like the end of the first issue, there’s another reveal here that keeps pushing on the idea of celebrity superpower manifestation occurring in front of the entire world. I’m not sure where it’s going to go next, but it feels like a fun poignant ride regardless. Grade A-.
Deathmatch #2 (Boom!): I’m still surprised to be really enjoying this book! The art from Carlos Magno has just enough detail and surface polish that I think it dips its toe into Juan Jose Ryp waters at times, and that’s a pretty endearing quality to have. I like the way the dude draws women and hair and the way the costume designs just hang on the characters feels “right” to me. On the script side, Paul Jenkins finds a way to make the story transcends the basic notion of “characters are bracketed off like the NCAA Final Four Tournament and kill each other.” It has the tang of taking these familiar archetypes and breaking them, which lends a very post-modern flair to the proceedings, something I’m always up for. The first two issues have now been repetitive in construction, but in spite of itself, I’m engaged by the characters, I dig the character profiles, and for the first time in a long time, I feel like we have a superhero universe being unpacked in front of us and it’s not making me throw up in my mouth, but actually feeling engaged and interested. I’m not sure how long I’ll be enamored of all this for $3.99, but for now it’s a little sleeper hit. Grade A-.