The Death-Defying Dr. Mirage #1 Preview and Review
I’ve been looking for an entry point into Valiant’s titles, given how confusing I find their company foundation stones of reusing characters I never knew and lots of crossovers. The Death-Defying Dr. Mirage #1, next week’s launch of a five-issue miniseries, was much friendlier to me. Plus, I appreciated seeing a female lead (where a big deal isn’t made of her gender) written by a woman, Jen Van Meter.
Although a first issue, there are still references to events that have gone before. Our title character, Shan Fong (Dr. Mirage), has a departed husband she’s searching for. She can communicate with the dead, but for an unknown reason, not him. This provides a tragic undercurrent, as she can reassure other widows but not herself. In the meantime, she’s been asked to help a former military occult investigator with a curse left over from his secret past. Although that’s the main plot driving the story, I wanted to hear more about Shan’s past than this more-standard-style conflict.
I wasn’t sure, at times, if the references to past events were authorial-created background or occurrences from past comics I haven’t read, which made me a little uncertain. I would have appreciated a text page with some of the history of the character and goals for this version, but I guess that’s easily found on the internet. (Actually, that made it worse, since now I want to know what happened to Hwen’s first wife Carmen.) I think this is a reboot, although this isn’t Shan’s first appearance in modern Valiant continuity; that took place in Shadowman #5 last year.
I wish the art by Roberto de la Torre was as polished as the writing. I’m not a fan of this sketchy-looking art style, as though the artist didn’t get a chance to solidify his lines and the work was reproduced from draft pencils. I liked the unfinished look for the ghosts, but at times, I found it difficult to differentiate between the spirits and the living people. (There are preview pages at the publisher’s website that show some of what I’m referring to.) Don’t get me wrong, though, this is more a taste preference than a criticism.
Less a matter of taste is my wish that there had been more story meat here. Given the high prices of comic issues, for me to invest in a miniseries requires each issue must make me want to read more now. Otherwise, it’s more sensible to wait for the inevitable collection. Unfortunately, we get the premise established — that Shan is willing to risk a dodgy-sounding job and client because she’s seeking her dead husband — and not much more. I like what we know of the character, but I wish the overall package had felt more substantial. Still, I’m curious enough — and have enough faith in Van Meter — to read issue #2.
The Death-Defying Dr. Mirage #1 is out next Wednesday. The publisher, in addition to providing an advance digital review copy, also supplied this substantial preview.