Mara #2 and America's Got Powers #5

Today's post looks at a pair of comics that are studiously trying to avoid looking like a traditional superhero comic. What that apparently means is that to the average American teenager, superpowers are a horrible curse, not a wondrous gift. And organized competition is somehow involved, though in different capacities.

Mara #2

Script: Brian Wood
Art: Ming Doyle
Colors: Jordie Bellaire

Ming Doyle and Jordie Bellaire's bright and colorful world shifts to more somber blue an purple tones as the titular heroine faces the fallout from the the revelations of the last chapter. Or maybe not. Mara and teammate Ingrid visit the futuristic capitalist equivalent to the Soviet-era sports school. Or maybe they're meant to mirror ancient Spartan bouai. Whatever the case, they're corporate-sponsored training centers located in the remote countryside in order for their young charges to be inculcated with core American values. Ideals such as rugged individualism and a take-no-prisoners attitude. Just like Clark Kent. But things don't run smoothly, and the cliffhanger ending is absolutely jaw-dropping.

This is such a sports-obsessed culture that when it's biggest star is rumored to might have superhuman abilities, it's treated like a doping scandal. No one's screaming "Holy crap, superpowers actually do exist!" Instead they're accusing her of being a "cheater." That's pretty messed-up. Are people that myopic, or does this happen more regularly than the story has so far let on? Mara herself is still an enigma. While the strain of trying to hold on to her sponsors while maintaining an impeccable public image is beginning to show, she's still not very forthcoming about what just happened, or the extent or origins of her abilities. And that mystery generates anticipation for the next issue.

America's Got Powers #5

Script: Jonathan Ross
Art: Bryan Hitch
Inks: Paul Neary, Jason Paz
Colors: Paul Mounts
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos

Let's state the obvious: Take away the extreme sports angle, and America's Got Powers is basically X-Men set in the 2010s. There are rebellious and not-so-bright teenagers. The neo-fascist authority figures who fear and hate the teenagers for being different. And the obsequious professor caught in the middle. Update the formula with an evil military-industrial complex that wants to turn the runts into obedient weapons of mass destruction. Get Bryan Hitch to draw it. The result isn't so much a comic as a movie in comic book form.

And it's not just because the reader is constantly distracted by the fact that two of the characters are being played by David Tennant and Sarah Palin. Or Hitch's love for widescreen panels. Or the over-the-top scenes. The whole story is paced to fit within the confines of a ninety minute feature film. There's little plot or characterization. Just a series of set-pieces culminating in the big showdown in this issue, presumably to be concluded in the next. The main part of what happens here involves a standoff between young hero Tommy Watts and the above-mentioned evil parties, which is reminiscent of the climax in Ang Lee's oft-maligned Hulk movie. If your wish this year was to see Hitch draw Godzilla-sized adolescents rampaging across the Bay Area, accompanied by a full-blown, superpowered riot, then this is your kind of comic book.