The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage is notable for a few reasons. It marks the first time a female lead has been the central focus of a Valiant comic. It is also the first book from the publisher to be headlined by a female writer, Jen Van Meter. But more than anything, this book is notable because it is a superbly crafted relaunch of the character. With art by Roberto De La Torre, the five-issue miniseries is on track to tell a great story of lost love in a world of horror.
For those of you unfamiliar with the character, Dr. Mirage is a medium/paranormal investigator. The story opens on Shan Fong, known by most as Dr. Mirage, arriving at a group therapy session for widows. She doesn’t want to be there, and she has no qualms about telling her agent so. There’s some good character work here as we learn of Shan’s past through her interactions with the mourners. There are also quick glimpses of her personality here. She’s not a nice person. She’s willing to help people, but she would rather focus on her own problems. She’s a hero grounded in reality, one who hasn’t quite bounced back from her own tragedies.
Her agent manages to convince her to see another client, the billionaire Linton March. Linton worked in Army Intelligence during World War II and was tasked with hunting down occult weaponry after the war ended. One mission went awry, causing him to be bound by a spirit chain to some sort of demon. He wants Dr. Mirage’s help to break the chain and free himself from the spirit. Shan knows there’s more at play here than she’s being told, but she takes the job for personal reasons. Her investigation might lead her to some answers about her own tragedies.
I was continually impressed with Van Meter’s writing in this issue. As a relaunch, there’s always the temptation to flood the first issue with too much exposition. Van Meter manages to weave Dr. Mirage’s backstory through the issue without ever weighing down the reader. The story moves at a good pace and the greater mysteries of the issue are only vaguely hinted at, tempting the reader with just enough information to make them want more. And the ending? A great cliffhanger that promises more greatness to come.
If I had one complaint about the issue, it would have to be the art. De La Torres provides some stylish art that works great for the most part. The colors are moody and suit the supernatural themes of the story. Everything is heavily shaded and that makes for some great looking environments and silhouettes. However, some of the faces in the book are a little hard on the eyes. There’s a lot of emotion that needs to be conveyed here, but the faces never quite capture it.
The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage #1 gets almost everything right. It’s a shining example of how to relaunch a series without bogging down the existing audience. It lays the groundwork for even better things to come. The book is emotional and unsettling. The environment does some of the heavy lifting in setting the tone of the piece. Despite a few minor issues I had with the art, the book pairs the art and writing with impressive results.
This book has incredible potential. Get on board with the first issue and enjoy the ride.