Written by Brian Wood
Art by Ming Doyle
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Release Date: March 6, 2013
Cover Price: $2.99
There’s this familiar feeling I got after reading the first two issues of the Image Comics series Mara that I couldn’t put my finger on, which is funny because the premise of the book – a beautiful athlete in the future competes in professional volleyball – has been praised for being unique. And it certainly is, but I realized that the book was reminding me of David Foster Wallace’s notorious tome Infinite Jest, the 1,100 page novel being set largely in a tennis academy where young people train to compete in a media landscape vastly different then the one we know. The novel and the comic also have a captivating protagonist with some sort of shameful secret and peripherally circling both of them are an array of bizarre human beings with their own askewed political agendas. Look, it’s far, far from a being a perfect parallel, like I said, but there’s just something there that brings it to my mind.
Now with Mara, things take a much different turn (let me quickly throw up a **SPOILER WARNING** for issues 1 and 2 for this upcoming paragraph)…
So, Mara, a superstar athlete of breath-taking beauty and talent, so beloved around the world that her twin brother whose serving in “The ‘Stans” says he doesn’t fear the insurgents out there, has superpowers. They get revealed publicly, mid-game when she stops time and re-aligns an opponent’s serve. Now the world’s starting to turn against her and her bright, shining stardom isn’t so certain anymore. After receiving some mild taunting at the end of issue 2, Mara flys away in a burst. What we get from issue 3 is a varying array of flash forwards, flashbacks, and dream sequences circling around the question of just how powerful this young woman is and just what kind of destruction she’s capable of.
So, some really good news about this book: Artist Ming Doyle has been killing it here. After making a name for herself doing really arresting work on the webcomics The Loneliest Astronauts and Boldly Gonewith Kevin Church, Mara boldly announces that Doyle is indeed ready for primetime. Concocting some truly imaginative sets and outfits that sell her unique vision of the future, she also delivers on making the volleyball sequences dramatic and putting a special touch on the superpower scenes. And midway through this issue, there’s a scene of destruction that felt like something out of Akira.
The writing is delivered by the always versatile Brian Wood, whose work I don’t always love but when I do I love deeply. Actually, thinking about this series I realized something funny – this series is in keeping with two traditions going back to earlier series such as Demo, Channel Zero, and the particularly lovely Local, which, if you’ve never read, then get on that one; they’re all stories that put female protagonists’ front and center, and they also happen to be his strongest works (imho, no offense DMZ fans).
I’ve written in previous reviews, and I’ll repeat it here, that writing about single issues on new titles or miniseries midway through can be deceptively difficult, like reviewing the 3rd or 4th reel of a film. What I can tell you about Mara right now is that I’m really digging it, I’m excited to find out where it’s going, and while I may have some trouble following it at times I find myself deeply rewarded by reading it – Hey wait, that’s another thing it has in common with Infinite Jest!