3.04.2013

Mara #3 [Advance Review]

Mara #3 (Image): The art in this issue is stunning, and that’s not surprising considering it’s the best issue in the series to date. Not only are Ming Doyle’s figures utterly emotive and well-rendered, but there’s a beautiful design sense permeating the entire affair. All of that basically culminates with an uncomfortably realistic opening action concerning something happening to Mara. In the art, gone are the occasional wonky pose or instance of blobby tech that I heckled Doyle about, and which detracted from earlier issues. Along with Doyle, colorist Jordie Bellaire uses a very controlled color scheme, with a deliberate palette that shifts along with flashbacks or other narrative threads. The art has gotten exponentially better as the series goes on, and we’re left with Mara’s flawless personage, her incredibly realistic features that still manage to come across as superhumanly beautiful and exotic. As Ingrid and the emergency medical crew get a first hand account of Mara’s developing power(s), the strength of Doyle’s art makes us believe in the mystery that this seems to be a naturally occurring phenomenon of biology – not the result of drugs or surgery – and not what Marvel would call a mutant, or DC would have called a metahuman.

As is the case in his Dark Horse series The Massive, Brian Wood is careful to ensure that even in a sci-fi sports comic focused on uber-celebrity culture and media saturation, (not to mention a dose of military-might-as-foreign-policy skepticism), you can still see this world being extrapolated from our own as a possible alternate future, an entertaining cautionary tale. It’s like Supergirl meets Arsenal meets Jean Grey, with the powers of flight, strength, enhanced perception, a knack for projectile weapons, and now mind control too(?) as witnessed in the rooftop sequence. There are seamless nods making it discernible that this is Brian Wood comics. There’s the old-school Channel Zero style fascination with impromptu street art; you can imagine the “Who is Mara?” posters being wheat-pasted (or whatever the futuristic equivalent is) up all over the city. There’s the naïve/admirable, but palpable joie de vivre of youth, the direct young girl who doesn’t care what the media thinks, will kiss her girlfriend in public, and most importantly, tell the truth, lost sponsorships deals and ultra sleek modern apartments be damned. In order for Wood’s characters to be off on their identity quest, they must first find a way to be true to themselves, at times recklessly indifferent to the consequences. Look at Megan in Local. Look at the kids in DV8. Look at Matthew Roth in DMZ. Look at Callum Israel in The Massive. It’s time to add another great protagonist to the list of Brian Wood creations. It’s time for Mara Prince.

Wood’s scripting in this issue is extremely effective, particularly the one-sided phone conversation with who we assume is Ingrid’s mom. This young woman is not all reckless folly though, there’s an emotional maturity that’s in transition as well. Wood and Doyle come together in perfect synergy with a shot that sees Mara hovering over an iPod device. It’s an iconic image that I read as her centering herself in some sort of transcendental state in an effort to control her powers, quickly carving out a quiet mental space to listen to the faint whisper of her own intuition. It’s a controlled moment from the creative team that requires the reader to provide some closure and doesn’t insult the audience’s intelligence with rote exposition. For me, the crescendo wasn’t the cliffhanger per se, but Mara’s speech about waiting or being too patient; she’s wise beyond her years in a way we hope for in our heroes. Mara doesn’t lower herself, she tries to elevate the population instead. Now, I never liked Superman and I try to avoid anything that smacks of lauding a company-owned DC franchise, but this is what was always the key to characters like that. What makes someone like that a hero isn’t their inherent power, it’s their ability to make ordinary citizens see greatness in themselves, not some external savior. That’s their true power. Reading Mara reminds me of the famous Nelson Mandela quote that begins: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us…” and ends with “…as we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Grade A.

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