She sees dead people…

…but never the one she misses the most.  Your Major Spoilers review of The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage #1 awaits!

Writer: Jen Van Meter
Artist: Roberto de la Torre
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Dave Lanphear
Editor: Alejandro Arbona
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage:  Back in the dark days of the 1990s, Valiant Comics gave us The Second Life of Doctor Mirage, the story of a parapsychologist and his beloved wife, who sorta dies and becomes a ghostly being of pure, insubstantial necromantic energy.  In this, the new age of Valiant, the names are similar, but the stories have been changed for the better, which leaves us to wonder: What has happened to Doctor Mirage?


We open with a tense text conversation, as Shan Fong (also known as Doctor Mirage, speaker for the dead) angrily confronts someone for their part in not explaining to her the nature of today’s séance.  The next four pages proceed to rip my heart out, as Shan speaks with a room full of widows, connecting each with the spirit of their lost husbands and wives.  All of her clients leave happy, and one stops to thank her, asking about Doctor Mirage’s own recently dead husband.  “I don’t know where he is,” she tersely replies.

I gotta say, I kind of love this introduction, expertly putting us right into Doctor Mirage’s life, showing us her emotional distress, her powers and modus operandi in an incredibly skillful and succinct manner.  Transition to Shan’s home, as her agent Leo arrives, and offers her another gig, this one with a hefty paycheck attached.  Mirage agrees, and the interview with her client is a fascinating read, full of details on her back story and the greater canvas of the linked Valiant Universe (including a mystic rune that looks like the multi-pointed star that serves as the company logo.)  When the scope of what he wants becomes clear, Doctor Mirage immediately begins to leave, until a voice in her head promises secrets about her lost husband.  As the issue ends, our good Doctor is off on a journey from which even she admits there may be no return…


Roberto de la Torre does one hell of a job on the art for this issue, giving it a dark and brooding nature that fits the main character’s emotional lockdown and her arcane job.  Though a little bit impressionistic, there’s nonetheless great detail and facial expression to be had, and the range of emotions that Shan Fong is given in these pages is stunning.  But, the real star of the book is the excellent introduction to Doctor Mirage’s life, a textbook example of how to give us everything we need without endless infodump or awkward expositional dialogue.  Doctor Mirage herself is enigmatic, but in a way that makes you want to spend more time with the character and see what makes her tick, and the last-page cliffhanger had me genuinely invested in her safety.  All in all, the success of a first issue is of three-fold effect: Is it a good comic?  Is it a good introduction to the characters and story?  Is it a satisfying chunk of story?  This issue succeeds on all three fronts, and my strongest takeaway is that I’m disappointed that this is solicited as a miniseries rather than an ongoing series, based on the quality of the work in these pages…


Long story short?  I recommend this book, even if you’ve never read an issue of Doctor Mirage before.  Reversing the point of view of the old series from the tribulations of the ghost-husband to the emotional trials of the flesh-and-blood wife is a brilliant inversion of the existing story paradigms, and Shan Fong is a breakout character.  The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage #1 is a solid hit, combining an excellent script with appropriately moody art and a unique color palette, delivering on the promise of occult-mystery-with-a-hint-of-lost-love and earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.  Check it out, you will not be sorry…


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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