Saturday, 12 October 2013

Mara by Brian Wood and Ming Doyle Review

Mara is a book that’s easy to read and easy to follow but will remain mysterious and open-ended when you’ve finished reading and will leave you with questions about what it all means that’ll be up to you to answer - and that’s all to the good.

It starts out in the near future with Mara Prince as a superstar volleyball player - in the near future volleyball is insanely popular - which might make you think that this is a sports comic: and then Mara suddenly uses super-speed in the middle of a game! From that point on, it’s anyone’s guess where the story is headed as Mara develops more and more superpowers - flight, strength, resilience, psychic abilities - and the world around her reacts with fear and hostility.

It’s a story where you think at different points, as Mara discovers superpowers, that she might become a superhero, and then later you think she’s going to choose to become a supervillain, but by the end, like Mara’s powers growing by the chapter, the story eventually transcends the final barrier and becomes almost zen-like in its outlook and as enigmatic as a Kubrick film.

If I’m making it sound like a tricky read, I assure you it isn’t. Brian Wood is one of the finest writers working in comics today and he writes Mara in a highly accessible way so that even if this is a completely new character and world, you can get into it and understand it instantly. I’ve read a lot of his work recently and Mara is definitely the best thing he’s written this year.

The best part of the book by far - and both writer Brian Wood and colourist Jordie Bellaire do first class work, so this is saying something - is Ming Doyle’s artwork. It is absolutely gorgeous! You know those shots in movies/TV shows where a camera films traffic and then you see the sped-up footage that looks like a neon line of red or white? Doyle does this in the first panel of the book, making it look as vibrant and surreal as it does on film - in a comic! From there you’re treated to page after page of incredible illustration.

The fight sequences between Mara and the military are especially brilliant as Doyle brings the focus tight in on Mara and then pushes it back at just the right moments to give a perfect sense of timing and movement to the scene. Or the scenes where Mara is flying and to give the reader an idea of her power and speed, the panel remains earth-bound, looking up at Mara, is an utterly genius choice. Even a page-length shot of Mara meditating while listening to her MP3 player is ridiculously stylised and amazing. If nothing else, this book will make you a fan of Ming Doyle and make you seek out everything she’s ever worked on, and is reason enough to pick up this title.

Is Mara a superhero story told slightly differently? Is it a metaphorical story of a teenage girl’s journey to self-identity? Is it a spiritual comic retelling an ages-old story of gods? You can figure out the meaning of the book for yourself but the one answer I will give you is to definitely pick up this highly entertaining original superhero comic to read.


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