Mara #4 (Image): This issue opens with Mara undergoing a battery of tests at the hands of her military handlers. Mara sees a possible new avenue for her life, “a reason,” as she says, assumably to move forward with a sense of purpose. She doesn’t know what’s happening to her. She doesn’t know who she is. The military isn’t interested in answering those questions for her though, all the military sees is a potential game-changing weapon. The thing to remember about Mara Prince is that she’s still very young. Even though she’s clearly continuing to manifest these amazing powers, which neither her nor her handlers fully comprehend, from apparently not needing food and water to proficiency with small arms to various martial arts, flight, strength, limited foresight and telekinesis, she’s still lived the majority of her life as a sheltered kid, one whose identity has never fully developed.
She’s been forced to let go of one identity, the sports superstar, because of media saturation and public backlash after revealing her powers, skepticism, apprehension, and fear of the unknown rampant. Now, she desperately seeks a new identity. Right or wrong, the military is offering an out, something she perceives as that “reason” she described. Though they leverage that desire, their real concern is only manipulating her toward an end. It’s an insidious way that they psychologically apply pressure, manipulating her family, sense of patriotism, and her hungry ego. By cutting off her ties with the real world and creating isolation in her heart, they also create dependency on her part, which is what master manipulators all excel at. I think the real crux of this series, what the denouement could offer in the last two issues, is her attempting to break free of those bonds and forge her own independent sense of self.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. The art of Ming Doyle is rapidly improving. After being slightly underwhelmed with the consistency of the first issue, she steadily won me over sometime around the last issue. Doyle employs a sense of precision that comes across in the fine line detail. There’s an almost anemic line that bubbles with sumptuous life because of the uneven fluctuations in it, which remind me of early Paul Pope. If Pope were to draw a single line down the page, it would wobble deliciously, plumping up and thinning out at will, overall delicate yet powerful and emotional, and I see that same interesting dichotomy now developing in Doyle’s aesthetic. It’s there in the sinewy muscle, the medical gear, the uniforms, the floating capital ship, the disintegration of a humvee type vehicle, the osprey type aircraft, and especially in Mara’s piercing eyes. If you talk about the art, you can’t really ignore the Jordie Bellaire color that it’s all bathed in. Perhaps the most exemplary and beautiful sequence is when Mara flies up in a frenetic rush and breaks atmo. The colors are pure gold. If Bellaire continues to improve at this rate, it won’t be long before we hear her name whispered in the same circles as Dave Stewart, Laura Martin, Dean White, and other top industry talent.
I didn’t really anticipate saying this when Mara first appeared on the stands, but it hit me that Mara has suddenly become a very pure “Brian Wood book,” in terms of the sheer volume of the writer’s hallmarks it includes. We see a well written woman on the very precipice of change, at a point in her life where decision-making is absolutely critical to decide a future course and bears heavy consequence, but the protagonist doesn’t quite yet possess all of the life experience tools to make said decision, and tons of dramatic tension gets squeezed out of that. There’s informative newsfeed, social upheaval, the prescient sense of futurism, and the identity theme I’ve largely written about in Wood’s work is front and center. All of those story elements are placed in a precarious nexus, in the intersection of tension between the media, the government, and sense of self. Grade A.