Mara, a six-issue limited mini-series written by Brian Wood and illustrated by Ming Doyle and published by Image Comics in 2013, is the story of a woman who is the best and most famous sports star in a slightly futuristic world. The comic mostly shows how stardom and the media are connected and the consequences this has, thereby directly reflecting upon our society’s treatment of stars and sports (as Brian Wood rarely writes a comic without reflecting upon our society). It’s a great if slightly weird comic because it does never go where we expect it to go and the ending can’t do anything but leave you astonished in its boldness. It’s a really great comic and I can only recommend it, but since I don’t want to spoil it, I’ll just focus on one aspect today.
The way this world works is that kids are sent to schools to learn their specific profession. They’re separated from their parents at an early age, making it clear that emotions and bonding is not part of this world, only following your destiny that has been chosen for you. You see any similarities? In the final issue we get a flashback of Mara going to her school and parting from her parents.
Her father tries to sweet talk her into going there, arguing with ‘fun’ and that it’s an opportunity (for which her brother had to suffer by going to a less worthy camp). He continues by telling her she will be a ‘grown up’ when she comes out and the final argument is that it is her ‘duty’.
Everyone has to do it, Mara, it’s called duty. We owe it to the state. They give us our lives; we have to pay it back, right?
It is interesting to see that the last argument is the least emotional one, the one that mostly says: ‘Ignore your feelings and just do what you’re told.’ They promise her she will be the best and that she should be thankful, but no child would ever accept that as an argument because being separated from your parents can’t be outbalanced by any of these things. You want your parents to tell you you’re the best, not some teachers in a strange camp. It’s clear Mara doesn’t accept her father’s explanations, going from ‘I guess’ to ‘I hate it!’ This is where her mother comes in.
Her mother goes all the way for the authority argument. She seems absolutely emotionless, probably shaped the same way by this society that she shapes her daughter now. In the first panel, she gives an extremely truthful definition of authority you don’t find in a dictionary:
You’re a child, so you do what we say, you do what they say, whatever anyone in authority says to do, you do. This is your job, I do my job; your father does his job, and your brother also.
This is how this and our world works. You do what you’re told, you don’t question anything because authority knows what’s best for you. It’s teachers, bosses, parents, police, politicians. They are always right. Right? It's their duty after all, right? Right? Just look at the sad panel of Mara leaving, all alone, only one last image of her parents that will haunt her for the rest of her life.
As I said, this is just a flashback and not part of the central story. You have to read it for yourself, but I love it so much because it shows Mara first questioning, than rebelling against authority, only to in the end show the whole world what authority really means and can be. It’s rather brilliant.