Many years ago, “The Second Life of Doctor Mirage” was one of Valiant’s more entertaining titles, grabbing my attention with its mixture of horror, superheroics and love. As a result, when Valiant announced “The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage” as its reboot of the core concept, I was fairly excited; doubly so because of the creative team of Jen Van Meter and Roberto De La Torre. But so far, while the book is solid, it’s still missing a bit of that spark needed to make it especially great.
There’s much to like about “The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage” #2. Van Meter’s basic story structure is clever; with Shan Fong-Mirage wandering through the spirit world, the cost of getting assistance being storytelling (among other, less savory options) means that Van Meter can dole out Mirage’s back story to us. This issue lets us see how she met her deceased husband (and one of the objects of her search) Hwen Mirage, with the two in an early supernatural case.
The problem is that because readers only get snatches and accelerated glimpses of Shan and Hwen together, it’s hard to warm to them as a couple. And while Shan is nominally helping her client Linton March, her main goal is to rescue Hwen from wherever his spirit resides. With only a smattering of scenes with them, it’s hard to get fully behind Shan’s quest; it might as well be a jewel or amulet that she’s searching for, not her husband. Hopefully as the mini-series progresses and we see more of the two of them (via stories being told for the price of passage), that’s going to change, but at this point it’s not quite clicking.
De La Torre’s art is attractive but also a bit cold. Some of that feels a bit deliberate, with his art and David Baron’s colors meshing for some icy-blue pages, or later pages drenched in red. There’s a lot of detail on his figures, and their basic forms are all excellent. He’s probably at his best when it comes to scenery; the glimpse across the landscape of the Deadside on the last page looks amazing, with its tents and buildings popping up across the landscape. With the people, though, they’re all a little stiff and posed. When Linton March is dragging himself across the floor, he seems frozen in that moment; there’s no real sense of movement. Those fight scenes just aren’t quite coming together, and maybe it’s because of the color choices made that everything seems static, because De La Torre’s art hasn’t felt quite so stiff before.
“The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage” #2 is all right, but with such a strong legacy from the original series in the ’90s, one wants this mini-series to be great. Hopefully as the series gets further in, everything will warm up enough to fully embrace what Van Meter and De La Torre are creating here.