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It’s been a long time since I reviewed the first issue of Mantra. For the newcomers reading this, Mantra is one of the major protagonists of the Ultraverse and as the series progressed, several stories containing elements of fantasy and even science fiction got published. With the way Mike W. Barr wrote the stories, the Mantra series really had its very own flavor and style among all Ultraverse comic books. What also made the character Mantra unique was that she was established with the use of the unholy element of reincarnation.
Before Mantra came to be, there was a male eternal warrior called Lukasz who was a part of a group that fought a rival group of warriors through the ages. Their leader Archimage used magic to ensure that whenever Lukasz or any of his teammates die, he would get reincarnated (his soul enters a new body belonging to an already living person whose soul gets displaced) and continue the fight. Then something happened in issue #1 which led to Lukasz occupying the body of a pretty woman named Eden.
To find out more, join me in this look back at Mantra #1, published in 1993 by Malibu Comics with a story written by Mike W. Barr and drawn by Terry Dodson.
The story begins at the home of Eden Blake in the evening. An armed man named Warstrike knows that Lukasz is occupying Eden’s body. Lukasz/Eden/Mantra starts to resist him but notices that Eden’s son and daughter are both present and seeing them. Quickly and cleverly, Mantra tells the children to get back to bed and hope they did not notice something wrong.
Filled with emotions, Mantra asked Warstrike not to kill her. As it turns out, Warstrike did not come to take her life and reveals that he had been used by Notch (a rival warrior Lukasz often fought with) as a tool to kill him (Lukasz) the last time he was in a male body. Warstrike tells her he’s going to help her.
After the talk and another attempt by Warstrike to charm her, Mantra slams the door and goes to bed. She sleeps to prepare herself for the next day…
I’ll star with the most obvious thing about this comic book…the writing done by Mike W. Barr is very strong and has a nice balance between plotting, spectacle and characterization all throughout. For his part, Terry Dodson nicely translated the writing into engaging visuals.
For the most part, this comic book is very character driven which is a nice pay-off considering the plot build-up in issue #1. We get to see Lukasz struggling more not only because he displaced Eden’s soul (again, reincarnation is unholy) as he occupied her body, but because he is living Eden’s life which involves being the single mother of two children, going to work at the office, wearing women’s clothes and shoes, and dealing with a certain someone from Eden’s past. All of these add to the tremendous challenge of Lukasz who already has his own mission to fulfill.
Mantra #2 is a very strong read from start to finish. As it develops Mantra even further, it also adds to the build-up of another story element: Eden’s domestic life. As the armored Mantra, the protagonist has a mission to find and free Archimage. As Eden, spending time with the two little ones is not only challenging but also crucial to their development. These elements are nice twists to the old hero-civilian formula of superhero comics. Indeed, this one is worthy follow-up to issue #1.
If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Mantra #2 (1993), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $8, the near-mint copy of the bagged edition costs $16 and the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition costs $26.
Overall, Mantra #2 (1993) is recommended.
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