Written by: Jen Van Meter
Art by: Roberto de la Torre
Colored by: David Baron
Lettered by: Dave Lanphear
Edited by: Alejandro Arbona
Published by: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewed by: Kristian Horn
In Comic Shops September 3, 2014!
Doctor Shan Fong has a special talent. She can talk to dead people. Like many people who can talk to dead people she uses this talent to help those who have lost loved ones communicate with the dear departed. She helps them deliver final messages, alleviate lingering guilt, clear up mysteries…basically she does what your typical medium does. She doesn’t seem to like doing it. She doesn’t even really seem to enjoy profiting financially from it. This may be because as much as she can help other people connect with their deceased loved ones, she can’t seem to connect with the one person she lost: her husband. Because of this she’s caustic and resentful. She sees her talent as a burden rather than a gift. She uses it to her benefit, but doesn’t really see it benefitting her…that is until she makes contact with someone or something that claims it can help her cross the divide and finally contact her dead husband.
The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage is an intriguing book. While I don’t believe that this debut is a strong as many of Valiant’s first wave of books it’s definitely got a lot of potential. Adding to the obviously unsettling aspect of being able to communicate with the dead are small little touches that set it apart from your average “paranormal investigator” story.There’s the fact that Mirage’s costume is a bit more than just a costume…it actually seems to actually be some sort of psychic armor that keeps her protected when dealing with the metaphysical. There’s also the bit about how the protagonist’s house seems to be some sort of mystical being in and of itself…one that will only allow access to anyone that Mirage herself gives permission to. Then there’s the missing details…the mysterious past of Doctor Fong and the question of why she seems determined to keep herself detached from the world around her. All of these elements make Doctor Mirage a book that has interesting ingredients in it…but in the end actually failed to keep me interested.
My problem with the book came more from the pacing than anything else. While I absolutely loved the artwork, which is beautifully haunting and perfectly appropriate for the comic, I felt that this first issue lagged a bit and had a hard time getting the story moving. There is a feeling of detachment that hangs around the edges of Doctor Mirage both with the main character and the surrounding narrative itself. There wasn’t really any point where I felt I could really connect with what was happening in the book. I couldn’t quite pin it down but I feel that in their attempt to create a creepy feel for the book they may have erred a bit and made the book’s appearance a bit too cold, a bit too ethereal. In all honesty I though that the fault mostly lied many with the color palette of the comic. Too much of the artwork is surrounded by hues that are too similar to each other and detract from the detail of the gorgeous, European-style comic artwork. While not every comic has to be a slam-bang actioner, I feel that there needs to be something that draws you in…that hooks you from the very beginning, especially when you’re dealing with the first issue of a book. I found Doctor Mirage to be a bit lacking in that department. To a certain extent, it seemed as if this comic fell a bit flat for me even thought it has some interesting concepts and some really stunning artwork.
I don’t want to be too harsh on Doctor Mirage or on Valiant. As far as I’m concerned Valiant is a company that’s putting out some of the better adventure books out there. I just feel that The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage isn’t up to their usual standards. Again, it’s a book with some potential, it’s a book that has some fantastic illustrations, but it just didn’t hit me in the gut. It seemed to just linger in its space almost as a spirit would float between the netherworld and the real world. Maybe that’s the feel that they were going for but personally I need a comic to have a solid anchor and I felt that Doctor Mirage didn’t have that. In all honesty, I tend to read Valiant releases once they are released in trade paperback format so maybe once the story develops a bit, gets fleshed out a bit more, it’ll be a comic that really is able to draw me in. This comic isn’t one that I’m counting out just yet. It’s got enough compelling pieces to it that make it interesting, especially for comic fans who are into the paranormal. But when it comes time to catch up with my Valiant reading it wouldn’t necessarily be the first trade that I’d pull off of the Valiant shelf at the comic shop.