Review: MIRROR #1

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MIRROR #1
Written by Emma Rios
Art by Hwei Lim
Published by Image Comics
Release Date: February 3, 2016

Don’t ever try to separate a boy and his dog. Ever. Because that boy may become a master mage someday, with his mind and powers focused on creating animal/human hybrids. That’s the general premise of Mirror #1, a new series from Emma Rios and Hwei Lim and Image Comics. Mirror #1 hits all the right notes for a fantasy series, filled with magic, unyielding beauty, and a conceit that is whimsically charming. Image has been nailing it with fantasy/sci-fi series lately, and Mirror is no exception.

After reading Mirror several times, I still feel like I only understand the story so much. However, unlike other first issues where this may frustrate me and make me feel like I’m being intentionally led on, something about the mysterious shroud of twisted plot is satisfying. So what is Mirror about? From what I can tell, it follows the story of Ivan, a mage and underling of Kazbek. Ivan has created a group of animal and human hybrids with the ability to communicate and perform human tasks, but Kazbek has more nefarious plans for this legion. The story is told mostly by following Zun, a girl-mouse who helps Ivan care for the other animals.

Hwei Lim’s art is a clear standout in this first issue. The soft colors and lines suit the genre well while providing a visual feast. The watercolor style and playful facial expressions build the fantastical world beautifully. Every page is constructed with freedom; panels are often deconstructed by the characters interacting with the grid lines and breaking through the borders. The characters are unique and gorgeous, providing the mind with plenty of thoughtful designs that bring life to the world built by this story. Lim makes it easy to feel compassion for the animals presented in this issue, but also manages to provide them a powerful grace as they emote and move from page to page. Lim’s beautiful colors, painted on with a loose but precise quality makes her the perfect artist for this kind of story. I’m guessing Lim is also responsible for the letters in this story, and these are noteworthy because of how uniquely implemented they are. Rather than using the digital medium to create perfected speech balloons, the edges are irregular and often don’t meet up with each other. The font is not in the typical uppercase-style, but rather in regular casing, using the different cases to add-on to speech patterns for some of the animals. It’s something I haven’t quite seen before, and it adds another layer of depth to this story.

Emma Rios has penned something worth checking out. Her writing is fantastical, her dialogue lilting and cryptic at times. Even though I wasn’t always sure what was going on, the writing and story was wrought with emotion, allowing me to hold onto the issue and not want to let go. Rios has crafted some truly endearing characters in this first issue; everyone is layered in a way that shows thoughtful intricacy, and I am looking forward to unraveling the cast with each issue. Some readers might be upset that you aren’t given a whole lot up front, but I think that works in the favor of this story. We aren’t given a ton of background or context, yet the world feels fleshed out and ready to dive into. It seems this may be a series that is driven by a strong cast of personality and complex relationships rather than overarching plot, so the mysteries are less maddening than when they occur in a plot-driven series with this first installment.

Mirror #1 is the kind of book the breathes imagination into to the world. It’s beautiful and heart-wrenching, emotional and visually stunning. Rios and Lim are clearly working very well together to paint a magical world with an intriguing cast of characters, one that I’m anxiously awaiting to learn more about. Mirror #1 is a comic not to be missed by fans of thoughtful, fantasy story-telling.

The Verdict: 9.5/10

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