Mara #1: Sporting Chance
I've been big enough of a booster for Brian Wood's The Massive that I'm down to check out any new series he brings our way. His new Image series with artist Ming Doyle is simply called Mara, and while it does showcase some of the same talents that made me enjoy his Dark Horse book, this one is a bit more of a hard sell for me.
Mara #1 is mostly world-building, something Wood has been great at in The Massive. But an environmental team struggling for purpose in the wake of the fall of civilization is much more interesting than a mega-celebrity in the world of volleyball. Yet, Mara Prince seems to be the entire world of this series so far, and thus most of Wood's effort is focused on establishing that Mara Prince Is Perfect And Amazing. This is a future society where geopolitical turmoil and conflict has encouraged a tremendous emphasis on any and all sports, which is why a volleyball player can be a psychotically-beloved famous person the world over. The twist comes at the end, when it seems Mara manifests some kind of casual hyper-speed power that may mean she'll be leaving behind her life of fame, fortune and single-minded devotion to maintaining her talent and "making everyone proud" for the apparently equally celebrity-driven armed forces.
It's hard to think of much less interesting than famous athletes in fiction. Sure, the real people are occasionally fascinating because they show off crazy talents and what-not, but sports and comics rarely seem to mix well (see also: NFL Superpro). If Mara ditches the super-sport world quickly enough, it'll likely get a lot more interesting, as superstars completely out of their element are a better sell. If there's any knock on Wood, it's that his detailed, narration-heavy storytelling can be a bit dry, and when the tale being told doesn't have the hook of being the end of the world, the risk of eye-glazing is exponentially greater.
Doyle's artwork is also a bit of a mixed bag. It has this odd sketchy quality that can be somewhat off-putting, but there are panels here and there that are hard to look away from – particularly her splash pages. My initial impression is that it'll be an acquired taste, much like Fiona Staples' work in Saga.
The jury's still out on Mara overall, though, but it's a #1 issue from Brian Wood. That means it's certainly worth giving a shot.