This last issue of Brian Wood and Ming Doyle’s collaborative effort in MARA, the story about a volleyball superstar-turned-godlike superhuman, is the perfect ending to the series, not because it’s particularly good, but because it rings true to its narrative direction thus far in what I found to be a pretty lackluster presentation. Maybe I’m out of touch or something, but I don’t understand why this book seems to get as many glowing reviews as it does, other than the fact that the team consists of industry darlings, who admittedly have done great work elsewhere. I, for one, am quite happy to see this dull flame finally peter out as MARA floats off, not ironically, into lifeless space.
MARA #6 basically follows its titular character one last time as she waxes philosophical in an issue-long monologue about her newfound godhood and the way it has hardened and jaded her toward a human race to which she once belonged as a point of celebrity awe, but now looks upon her with fear. Proving that both her weapons and commitment to an attack on the human race were as infertile and seemingly as futile as this book itself, Mara forgoes anything so interesting as “actual conflict” in favor of vague introspection on the nature of Man.
In the early-going, it feels like Wood is directly addressing his reader through his main character about the book’s narrative twist at the end of last issue (as well as its unfortunately tepid follow-through), but it quickly turns into an inner soliloquy wherein Mara becomes a combined and much more diluted combination of Dr. Manhattan (as he sits alone on Mars, opining existence) and Brandon Routh’s creeper Superman.
You can kind of see what Wood is going for here - particularly in the way he relates Mara to a normal spaceman and the sacrifice he makes - but it falls flat for me in comparison to analogous treatises, like the aforementioned Watchmen: a high standard, I know, but you have to expect that in a scene with such similarity.
By now, the fact that her reason for celebrity was volleyball is thankfully moot, but I do feel the need to bring it up again briefly for that very reason. It has been a weird conceit that has since proven to be pretty pointless.
Ming Doyle’s art continues to be without the reach of my personal taste. I will say that when she wants to, she can draw some very beautiful faces, but for the most part her figure work looks like a comic book version of ungainly, dated CGI effects from the early 90s or as I have said before, marionette puppets.
Her backgrounds here are ill-formed or haphazard, and what does exist (be it buildings, cars or ships hurtling through space) looks like either melted versions of what they were supposed to be, or a child’s interpretation of them in clay. Maybe that’s a style thing, but it just doesn’t work for me.
She is at her best in the brief flashback sequence that shows Mara with her parents, but even then her perspective comes across as harsh and unbelievable. If Doyle stuck to drawing faces, I’d be happy, but she’s moving onto Quantum and Woody - one of my favorite new books - and if this is what she brings to that table, I may have to excuse myself.
MARA’s build has had flashes of brilliance, but in this final issue, it has proven to be unfulfilling, especially after a particularly long delay. Its narrative structure has felt aimless and here “ends” in a weak, noncommittal bow-out and an artistic direction that fails to inspire. However, if you LOVE Doyle’s art and don’t mind plots that don’t really go anywhere, then have at it.
Writer: Brian Wood Artist: Ming Doyle Colorist: Jordie Bellaire Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 10/2/13