Writer Jen Van Meter and artist Roberto de la Tore bring the adventures of Shan Fong-Mirage to a close (for now) in the pages of "The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage" #5. With a lush text recap of the first four issues, this fifth and final installment is every bit as approachable as the first chapter and just as packed with the expected level of action and development any reader would want in a finale.
Van Meter's story powers forward with a battle that involves clear-cut sides and gives readers easy choices to make in a black-and-white struggle between good and bad, invading demonic hordes and struggling heroes hoping to stave off the attack. Shan Fong-Mirage, along with her departed husband Hwen and a mysterious captive, are all that stand between the invading Ivros and the Undying hordes from a different plane of existence. Lurching towards the breach opened by the forces of Linton March, those forces bring out the heroism present in Shan and Hwen thanks to Van Meter's script. The writer uses only the dialogue in the story to drive it forward, refraining from caption boxes or absentee narration which would be a convenient trap for a writer handling the tales of a character who can walk between the living and deceased.
Dave Lanphear's letters are dynamic and carry threads of the story, giving each character a distinct tone that is visually appreciable. The letterer does a grand job of appointing the dialogue to proper spots throughout the issue, such as a conversation that fades out of one panel and into another mid-sentence. Lanphear's letters mesh nicely with de la Tore's art and David Baron's colors. Gritty art drenched in deep, rich shadows hovers somewhere between Shawn Martinbrough and Rafael Albuquerque with the shading adding mystery and sowing doubt. Some of de le Tore's figures are quite rigid, but that doesn't hinder his ability to deliver concise storytelling beats.
"The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage" #5 culminates in Fong-Mirage's personal transformation, leaving readers with a decidedly different character and cast at the end of this issue. The bold new dawn presented in the final pages evolves organically from Van Meter's story and is visually accented by reds, oranges and yellows, hues borrowed from a bright, bold sunrise as Valiant Entertainment prepares readers for the further adventures of Doctor Mirage, another fine addition to their stable.