Review: Mara #4

Although it’s taken me a hot minute, I’m finally warming to Brian Wood’s Image book, Mara. If you’ve read my reviews about this title in the past, you’ll note that my biggest sticking point was its basis around a world obsessed with, of all things, volleyball. It’s a weird premise to drive a story, and one which has, quite sensibly, been all but discarded in favor of a more classic superhero/villain origin.

I don’t mean to sound as vitriolic against volleyball as I probably do; I mean, I don’t hate the sport or anything, but for me, it just lacks any element of interest or depth, and has nothing to do with the framework of the story that has unfolded in general. It kind of comes across like Wood was trying to appease the wishes of a daughter or niece or something, and in fact, its unceremonious nigh-abandonment proves my point that it was completely unnecessary as a plot device. Saying that, in the last issue, and in this one, the story has taken a decided upswing - though I do wonder if it’s come too little, too late.

Facing a world that no longer trusts, let alone loves her, our still-confused overpowered former volleyball superstar has eschewed her past life to essentially become Mara Prince: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. After what we are told is an in-depth battery of governmental testing, we get a nice little montage of Mara learning various life skills, including advanced weapons training, hand-to-hand combat and running. Excelling as you might expect, given her apparently limitless power set, Mara soon tries to cut a deal with her military superiors, but her commander, in an ill-advised move, tries to strong-arm the would-be heroine into submission, using her soldier brother as leverage.

Pro-tip: don’t piss off a woman who can shred an armored vehicle with her mind. Y’know what? Let’s go ahead and amend that to just “don’t piss off a woman.” I’ve learned they can all shred an armored vehicle with their minds ... or teeth and fingernails, whichever.

The story continues to deliver quite a few punches, particularly in the growing discontent Mara feels towards those that would judge and/or assassinate her. The subtle yet powerfully symbolic threat she leaves with the Commander is done very well, as are all of the quiet moments she has contemplating her situation, particularly as she begins to embrace it. I do think that some of the characters that surround her are far too unrealistically responsive to their own knee-jerk reactions (the Commander, for example, seems a bit too nefarious, given the situation), but if you don’t take this as high drama, then it reads just fine.

The art continues to be good, but there’s still something about the figures that really bugs me, and it’s that not one of them looks natural. Most times, they appear like Barbie dolls, ungainly posed in a forced mimic of real life. I also have a problem with the gun Mara fires in the issue; a small point, I know, but it looks like it’s made of tin foil and is slowly being crushed, which would be okay if it was showing her enhanced strength, but I don’t think that was the context of the scene. Still, it’s impossible to say that Ming Doyle isn’t a good artist, as is evident in the quietly emotive depiction of the characters’ faces, but action continues to be a weak point.

Much like its lead, Mara #4 proves to be a much more robust being as it goes along than it was during its formative steps, but for me, it’s still not anything I would call “super.”

Score: 3/5

Writer: Brian Wood

Artist: Ming Doyle

Colorist: Jordie Bellaire

Publisher: Image Comics

Price: $2.99

Release Date: 4/17/13