Comics

Above it All – Mara

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In today’s comic book world, science fiction seems to be the genre making the most waves, more than any other.  Joining the ranks of esteemed books like East of West, Saga and Lazarus, is Mara by Brian Wood and Ming Doyle.  Wood who is no stranger to the brand having written Channel Zero and currently working on The Massive, gives us a short, but sweet tale of a young girl whose whole world turns upside down.

Mara likes to play volleyball.  In fact, she was bred for it, being trained since she was just a little girl.  Corporations, like those who sponsor Mara, seem to be in charge and running most everything.  The world is essentially at peace with conflicts played out upon the field of major sports.  Armies and weapons of mass destruction still exist but merely convey a show of strength as countries have found another outlet for their disagreements.  Mara, who is slated to play a game against another country, starts to undergo a transformation and by doing so, loses everything she has ever worked for.  And all of that happens to her at the tender age of sixteen.

The greatest thing about this book is that the story is clear and concise; it hits home and fires on all cylinders.  Everything is cut and dry and there is no filler found within.  Because of that, the pacing of the book is rapid so that the six issues which comprise the tale Wood tells, reads like only three.  It is not a bad thing either as sometimes reading a book with a great deal of text can sometimes weigh heavy and work against the story.  In the case of this book, while it is not exactly light on words, Wood trusts in Doyle to tell just as much of the story with her fantastic art.

Ming Doyle is a revelation.  Her art is clear and sharp which is absolutely perfect for this book.  There is no need for heavy shadow or shading as many books seem to have these days and it is refreshing to see a book with so much lightness and bright on the page.  The way Doyle centers Mara out and makes her the focus of attention in whatever panel she is within, whether in a limo, playing volleyball, teaching kids or in a crowd, is expertly crafted.  The costume designs are simple yet effective and the open concept of the art is fantastic.  No matter the scene that is called for, the pages are uncluttered and clean.  The book as a whole is superbly drawn from top to bottom.
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Wood’s portrayal of Mara is strong and yet understated.  When the book starts out, you would never realize just how young she is as she lives and works like any other adult person.  She is the leader of her team, owns a penthouse and has a girlfriend and though raised to be independent and strong, she has vulnerability about her.  As the tale progresses we see it even more, most especially when she starts to go through her transformation.  The more she loses her humanity to the process, the more it seems she becomes even more human than the rest of us.

Mara subtitled A Coming of Rage Story, is a perfect example of how a miniseries should be done.  It draws in the reader, has fantastic artwork and tells a simple and straightforward story.  It is a complete tale that tells the story it needs to and does not waste time or energy on unneeded plot points or extra tangents.  It is just a candid tale of a girl and what happens to her as she goes through something extraordinary.  Brian Wood and Ming Doyle, aided by Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles have created a short, but wonderful masterpiece.

4.5 out of 5

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