MICRA, by Lamar Waldron and Ted Boonthanakit, is one of those comics that lost out. A 12-issue limited series from the middle 1980s, it only ran seven issues and it’s hard to find information about it even online. So as I have the entire truncated run, I figured I’d take the time to give it a little more fame.
I reread it because I finished the first TPB of the Rucka/Lark series Lazarus, and Micra covers a lot of the same class-warfare ground. The setting is a dystopian future in which pollution (chemical and radioactive) have rendered most of America a living hell. The wealthy can buy space to live inside domed, pollution-free cities; the poor struggle outside, enter the cities as servants or sell their bodies for some degree of comfort in “Ecstasites.” It’s specifically stated in one issue that the cities could hold a lot more people, but the rich prefer their space.
Unsurprisingly, the poor are pissed and armed uprisings have justified martial law. That, of course, leads to more terrorism alongside the vice-president’s nonviolent reform movement (she’s black, which makes her stand out in an otherwise white cast).
The protagonist, Angela, is a wealthy, spoiled college student paralyzed by a terrorist attack. This makes her the perfect test for Micra, a Mind Controlled Remote Automaton: as she has no sense of her body to distract her, she can transfer her mind into Micra and control it without distraction. What she doesn’t know is that this humanitarian experiment is a military project—Micra comes with built-in weapons and she’s programmed to use them automatically in danger spots, applying lethal force whether Angela likes it or not. If it’s a success, the government plans to crush the resistance with them.
As frequently happens in fictional characters who become disabled, this is a growth experience for Angela, who bonds with the poor kid working on the project and eventually falls in love with him (top marks for showing that being a quadriplegic doesn’t stop the relationship, in contrast to the usual disability cliches). She’s even more changed by learning her family adopted her from outside, and that somewhere out there, she has a sister. Using Micra test flights as cover, she begins hunting her sister, Rita, unaware that Rita’s now a terrorist determined to smash the system that stole her sister away.
When the series wrapped up, Rita was dead and Angela was actively working with the vice-president’s movement. The military having learned this, they prepared to wipe out Angela and the entire research team before anyone higher-up discovers the truth. Angela goes in for an operation to restore her mobility, but she’s going to die on the operating table …
Had the series continued, presumably she’d have survived and saved her friends; I’m guessing she’d have found the ability to control Micra even detatched from the project equipment (possibly losing her flesh-and-blood body to the killers). And I wouldn’t be surprised if Rita survived her death in a Big Explosion (those are never fatal to key characters). But alas, it was not to be.
Given Rucka’s standing as a comics writer and that Image is publishing Lazarus—Micra came from a small indie company—I’m confident that comic won’t do as badly.
(Cover image with rights holder. Art by Ted Boonthanakit, I believe)