Writer: Jen Van Meter
Penciler: Roberto De La Torre
Cover Artist: Travel Foreman
Editor: Alejandro Arbona
Death was just the beginning…
Doctor Mirage talks to the dead…but the only spirit Shan Fong can’t ﬁnd is that of her late husband, Hwen. Instead, America’s favorite semi-retired paranormal investigator is haunted and raw, using her gift to solve homicides and bring peace to the recently bereaved. But when a big-time occultist with a classiﬁed military past hires her for a special job, Shan discovers a lead that might close the greatest mystery she’s ever tackled – how to get Hwen back. Now, Doctor Mirage must enter the undiscovered country and cross all the realms of the underworld, if she has any hope of rescuing the man she loves…or be forever lost beyond the earthly plane.
Summary and image courtesy of Valiant’s website.
What a set up, right?
The Death Defying Doctor Mirage plops the reader into the life of Shan Fong, a parapsychologist – an expert in the paranormal and a bridge to the afterlife. This first issue in the new Valiant First series presents the reader with a somewhat-detached, no-nonsense main character, who is simultaneously a tad off-putting and yet easy to cheer for. Fong, having lost her life partner, cannot even use her own mystical powers to reconnect with her love, leaving her shaken, defensive, and distant. That’s not to say that she’s inept in her abilities, though; her confidence and pragmatism only becomes heightened as she continues to live and work alone, and the times the reader get to see her more personal moments serve as an enlightening contrast to her more public behavior.
Sadly, we don’t get to explore much into her psyche before the plot gets rolling along. The pacing of the story picks up a strange momentum, and it seems clear that the writer wanted to get right into the arc, even if it meant rushing key points. Exposition and history is compacted a bit tightly as Fong meets a new client, and then before the reader has a chance to process the implications of the information this client shares, a twist jumps out at the reader, which left me a little more confused rather than excited about upcoming issues. The problem here may be a lack in the solid definition of the universe for new readers (i.e.: what’s wrong with other “planes”? what kinds of dangers lie beyond human existence?) instead of a mishandling of information, though. Still, when a plot point comes along with the potential to completely change the main character’s life, and it leaves a reader bewildered rather than giddy with excitement, one has to wonder whether this arc with be consequential or not.
But, of course, Valiant succeeds in its art and style. Roberto De La Torre pencils Doctor Mirage #1 as if it were a middle ground between sketch and realism: human bodies exhibit both simple shading and exquisite features, and ornate objects pop out with both fine detail and rough shapes. The style lends itself to blur the lines between reality and mysticism, which I hope to see more of in further issues.
Valiant wants to rope readers into another world, and though visually it seems like it will be another solid offering in its catalogue, it remains to be seen if the narrative can rise up to give us an arc we can pour our souls into.
For more information about Doctor Mirage and other Valiant comics, visit their website, ValiantUniverse.com.