The indie B&W boom of the 1980s generated lots of horrible comics, like the several zillion TMNT knockoffs. It also generated some good stuff. MICRA, by Lamar Waldron and Ted Boonthanakit, was good stuff, but not successful stuff. The creators conceived it as a 12-issue limited series, but it only ran seven issues. I suspect I’m one of the few people who have all of them.
I reread all seven a few years ago (this is a recycled and re-edited version of my post about MICRA on my own blog) after reading the first volume of Greg Rucka’s Lazarus, as MICRA has a similar near-future class-warfare premise. Chemical and radioactive pollution have rendered most of America unlivable (today they’d use global warming for the same effect) but the 1 percent live comfortably inside domed, pollution-free cities. The poor either struggle in the barren hellscape outside, enter the cities as servants or find some degree of comfort as sex workers in “Ecstasites.” The cities could hold more people, but the rich enjoy their space.
Unsurprisingly, the poor are pissed. Armed uprisings have led to martial law, which in turn has led to more terrorism. The vice president (the only black face in the cast) is pushing for nonviolent reform but without much success.
The protagonist, Angela, is a college-age child of priviolege paralyzed by a terrorist attack. This makes her the perfect test for the government’s special project, MICRA, a Mind Controlled Remote Automaton. As Angela has no sense of her body to distract her, she can transfer her mind into MICRA and control it without distraction. What Angela doesn’t know is that this seemingly humanitarian experiment is a military project; the android has a built-in arsenal and if it proves an effective weapon, the government will make more and annilate the resistance. Being disabled proves a growth experience for Angela (an annoying disability cliche). She starts to realize how privileged she’s been and how unfair the system is. She also falls in love with one of the techs on the project, even though he’s a poor kid recruited for his brains. Angela also learns her parents adopted her from outside, and that she has a sister, Rita, still out there. Using MICRA test flights as cover, she begins hunting Rita, unaware her sister is now a terrorist leader out to smash the system that stole Angela away. Angela’s also unaware that MICRA’s weapons systems are automatic: in the right conditions, MICRA will attack and kill regardless of any qualms its operator has.
By the end of #7, Rita was dead (it was a big-explosion death, though, and we know how those usually turn out) and Angela had joined forces with the reform movement. When the military learn this, they decide to kill Angela and the research team before the vice president exposes the unsanctioned MICRA project. As the last issue ends, Angela thinks she’s getting a surgical treatment to restore her mobility; in reality, she’s going to die on the operating table …
Well, obviously not. My guess is that she even without the tech plugging her into MICRA, Angela manages to place her mind in the automaton and save her friends. Possibly her real body dies and she winds up in MICRA permanently. But I’ll never know if I’m right.
#SFWApro. Cover images by Boonthanakit.