Mara #1 – Review: Sports to the Max? Not Exactly…
I know when I go back and re-read this review to edit it I will have felt I spent more time reading this than the first issue of Mara
. That is how short it felt. But is it short and sweet? Not exactly.
Writer Brian Wood (DMZ
) creates a world in which the two most popular topics are sports and war. While her brother fights in the war, Mara is a huge volleyball celebrity—and she’s about to become even more famous.
Mara’s not the character I expected. According to the narrator, Mara started playing sports at a very young age. However, instead of being the stoic protagonist obsessed with herself, Mara seems like a caring person. Also, despite the grossly misleading cover, Mara is also a seventeen year old African American and a lesbian. She has the potential to be a great role model on multiple fronts because of her race, sexual preference and position in sports. Now if only the rest of the issue can follow her example.
Other than the titular character, there’s no one else notable in this comic. Her partner seems caring at times then doesn’t seem to give Mara much of a thought other than “Get in the game” at the end. Her bipolar attitude makes it hard to judge her character. Mara’s brother is also seen complimenting her sister. Both of these characters feel very generalized and I don’t feel like I know them yet. Hopefully Wood will develop their characterizations. Even Mara could use more development since our narrator mostly gave us a vague origin story and we don’t see too much of Mara’s personality.
Mara’s origin story was interesting but I would have preferred seeing it as well. Brian Wood may have also tipped his hand too early. He could have waited until the second issue to reveal Mara’s origins while building up her character this issue. That way we’d actually care more about her origin. The way her origin is presented also could have used work. We shouldn’t just be hearing about it from a narrator. A narrator who, by the way, mimics a sports announcer. While his tone is perfect for a series about sports, it makes it slightly difficult for non-sports fans to not get bored while he’s speaking. I know despite my fascination with Mara’s story, the narration still managed to bore me at times. Also, the problem with so much narration means there’s much more telling than showing and I think a great comic can excel at both. Again, Wood should have held off on the origin story until we got to know Mara as a person.
Ming Doyle’s artwork could have followed what the narrator said more closely and focused on different imagery during Mara’s origin. Instead of showing Mara’s past or seeing more of the world the narrator highlights, we are given a barrage of pointless visuals in the beginning. None of those opening visuals would have been too appealing except for the great color scheme from Jordie Bellaire. Doyle’s artwork didn’t start to impress me until after the pointless barrage and even then it’s just a fleeting moment. When he draws a full page spread of Mara, meant to heighten her sexiness, he succeeds with flying colors by drawing a perfectly chiseled woman (seriously, I'd kill for her abs) who’s obviously being objectified. The important thing is they’re making a point about how sports treat women which I can understand… or they just wanted to show our protagonist when she was scantily-clad. Whichever works for you. Her sun-kissed tan only adds to the imagery. Unfortunately the rest of the artwork doesn’t reach this caliber for me. As soon as the volleyball game begins to setup I notice a lot of characters who are marred with ugly dimples, crows feet and over lined uniforms. Some backgrounds are also barely colored with sketchy lines during the game, which look even worse when juxtaposed with the clever background scheme of numerous colored lines that are the billboard behind the players which reflect their uniforms colors. This was an enticing background, simple but effective.
This wasn’t exactly “short but sweet” but despite my initial disappointment with Mara’s debut issue I can’t help but look back somewhat fondly on it and anticipate the next issue. The concept of Mara
is still enjoyable despite a somewhat boring announcer and a not-so-surprising ending (spoiled by news stories like mine
that I didn't even know were spoilers, I swear!) and I can see this series going in a very powerful direction or going down in flames. But we’ve started out on a mostly positive note that has piqued my interest to see where the series will go—and while the ending unfortunately wasn’t a shock because all the news stories including mine mention it, when the cliffhanger finally comes it does have me interested in the next issue.
might even get me into sports… but I don’t expect any miracles.