Science fiction and the musings of many regarding space/space travel, have always proved popular across the various mediums at our disposal. We flock to the cinema in hordes to witness our planet being destroyed or invaded for the umpteenth time, we devour the ethical quandaries put forth in many a Science Fiction novel/comic or instead choose to marvel at the real-life advancements in space travel and exploration, Tim Peake only recently demonstrating that our love affair with space is still as strong as ever.
However, what has always amazed me as a fan of Science Fiction is its ability as a genre to evolve, to stay fresh and remain relevant. From as early back as the literary works of Jules Verne or the cinematic genius of Georges Mêliés and his vision of space within his 1902 film A Trip to the Moon, right up until the present day with blockbusters such as Guardians of the Galaxy and Independence Day, audiences have demonstrated time and time again that they just can’t get enough of the genre.
The nature of the genre in itself is paradoxical; the subject matter by its very virtue is infinite, humans barely having scratched the surface of space and all its mysteries, the unknown proving the perfect canvas in which to create. Yet that being said, there is a train of thought when it comes to the Science Fiction genre that it has all been done before, that new concepts come few and far between. I mean how many different ways can Earth be destroyed or invaded by cybernetic life forms or aliens?
It is for this exact reason, the genre being so well established both historically and culturally, that I always have to tip my hat to a writer or director when they manage to either create something original or provide a new perspective on a genre with such established conventions. Which is why it pleases me greatly to report that Agent Maya manages to lock this delicate balance down tighter than an airlock.
So who exactly is Agent Maya and how has Erik J. Kreffel (the Creator and producer of the comic) managed to corner a niche in the interplanetary market? Well for starters, one of the comic’s biggest strengths is Agent Maya’s job title, or more accurately, the clientele she tracks down and brings to justice. Star Trek brought us Klingons, the MCU brought us Thanos whilst the MIB agents in Men In Black had the sole remit of ‘Protecting us from the scum of the universe’. So what intergalactic evil does Agent Maya protect the universe from? I’d happily wager a set of Infinity Stones along with as a sealed, mint condition Boba Fett on you not being able to guess the big bad!
So set your faces to stun and strap yourselves in because your brain is about to go into full warp speed. You ready? The answer is…Tax Dodgers. Now it doesn’t take a Jedi mind reader to sense that you were a galaxy away from guessing that answer, right? Agent Maya brings us the lowest of the low, the worst the galaxy has to offer and if the comic is anything to go by, the future is just as bleak for tax avoidance as it is in 2016.
The plot follows lead protagonist and heroine Agent Maya, a recruit of the IPTP (Interplanetary Tax Police) and her wisecracking, sentient sidearm Xibalba. Agent Maya embodies many of the characteristics of fan favourites within the genre and is reminiscent of a hybridised mixture of Han Solo and Ellen Ripley; she likes to work alone, is a badass and is at her most comfortable when in the thick of it. The first three issues are self-contained missions however, Issue Five is a continuation of the mission started in Issue Four, the tracking down of a tax-dodging crime boss the like of which has not been seen since the days of Al Capone.
Agent Maya’s missions range from impounding a synthetic pleasure robot, to a megastar not paying his taxes, to taking down a shady organisation known as the Corporation. The stories are conventional of the genre, the unique premise of our hero aside and one cannot help every now and then but draw similarities with other behemoths of the genre on and off-screen. Well trodden debates surrounding the civil liberties of synthetic life forms seen in films such as Blade Runner and the Terminator franchise or the nefarious deeds of conglomerates in films such as Robocop or Minority Report, are evident throughout the issues’ narratives and weaken the comic’s fresh USP somewhat.
However, unlike those who would seek to avoid their taxes, the comic cannot dodge the somewhat disappointing visual depiction of our heroine. Although strong-willed and independent, not needing a partner like others in the IPTP, the character falls afoul of the stereotypical, sexualised representation of women in the genre and in comic books in general. Regretfully, the comic’s design of the character diminishes the heroine’s positive attributes (instead opting for other attributes to be brought front and centre) thus rendering the type of female lead we see all too little of in the Science Fiction genre, as rather redundant. Any qualities shared with a character like that of Ellen Ripley such as her dogged determination and bravery are obscured by the design of the character, Agent Maya rendered more Barbarella than Ripley.
I raise this as an issue as there has been much debate as of late as to the casting and/or depiction of women on TV, Film and in comics, rather than positioning myself as some sort of armchair warrior. There is a contingent that seek to include women within their stories in key roles as way of scoring brownie points yet they are guilty instead of perpetuating negative tropes. Agent Maya I believe, avoids this 99% of the time but does walk very closely at times to falling into such an abyss.
That said however, the remainder of the comic does not suffer for it’s depiction of some female characters and is illustrated digitally rather than hand drawn which adds another technological, nay futuristic feel to the comic, making the content of the comic seem that bit more ‘Space Age’. The narrative of the comics can at stages feel too complicated for its own good, Issue Five of notable mention here, a plot that centres around the aforementioned crime boss, Yukyo Kopek , uploading her subconscious to a computer. I would attempt to explain the plot but after having read the Issue twice, I am none the wiser.
So, do you share my opinion? Agent Provocateur or woman of the hour? Let me know in the comments below or on our Twitter page.