THE DEATH-DEFYING DOCTOR MIRAGE #1
Written by Jen Van Meter
Art by Roberto de la Torre and David Baron
Published by Valiant Entertainment
Release Date: September 3, 2014
Shan Fong has a unique ability — she can talk to the dead that are still hanging around their loved ones in spirit. All but her own husband, that is. A paranormal investigator/celebrity psychic, this talented, but morose, mystic goes by the appellation Doctor Mirage, and she’s about to take on a case that may be the end of her. Or it might reunite her with Hwen, her deceased husband. Or both.
I don’t have a reference point for the original take on Doctor Mirage published by Valiant Comics in the mid-1990s other than Wikipedia, but it strikes me that this title is a great example of how the publisher is looking to modernize its line with the nuggets of its history.
Right off, Doctor Mirage is a pretty fascinating character — a woman coming to the aid of other women in a support group for recent widows, but not necessarily doing so with a caring or cheerful attitude. Van Meter transmits a real sense of Mirage’s loss in her behavior right away, so even as she performs nothing short of miracles, you can see the cost, if only in her own emotional state.
We get a good sense of Mirage’s breadth of expertise in a single issue, ranging from speaking to the dead (her most famous skill) to occult investigation and use of mystical spells, protections, and objects. Her sixth sense is strong, but grounded by its place in a real world setting and interaction with her manager.
Contributing greatly to that groundedness is the pencil and ink work by artist Roberto de la Torre, whose take on Doctor Mirage and her surroundings echoes a kind of film noir look at Los Angeles straight out of Chinatown. The architecture and atmosphere feels deeply rich, but is merely the outer wrapping of a much darker secret hidden well underground that we soon get a peek at. Colorist David Baron adds to that overall feel as well, with his controlled palette of sandy yellows and warm blues that bring me right back to too-hot, eerie summer nights.
De la Torre’s take on Mirage herself gives the character a smart, sophisticated look, but echoes the sort of sorrow underneath that Van Meter is delivering in her dialogue. The book is heavily inked, but that tactic feels beautifully chosen for the story at hand, keeping the feeling of dark there without relying overly on shock value or phantasmagoria.
The only criticism I have of the title to date is that it is already preordained as a five issue mini, and not given the greenlight as a full ongoing series. Van Meter’s handling of the character out of the box should be propelling this title to everyone’s pull list, particularly if you have not had much exposure to the Valiant Universe to date. This is a great, isolated way to get a feel for what they’re doing, and an excellent way to let the publisher know immediately this is the kind of book we want more of. I can’t wait for the next issue. Pins and needles, my friends.
The Verdict: 9.5/10