Valiant Comics has made a great effort in recent times to expand its roster of ongoing titles, whether that be Unity last year or Armor Hunters this year, or any of the others like the rebooted Rai. With each title the publisher has offered something different from the reader and it is clear that each title is slightly marketed to different readers, though there may indeed be some overlap. In all of this, what is undeniable is that Valiant is putting out one strong title after another, and as the publisher increases its roster yet again this month, we see something really great unfold.
The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage, or just Doctor Mirage began this past week with a #1 issue that is rather exceptional. It quickly introduces the reader to the protagonist, Shan Fong aka Doctor Mirage, and then launches into the meat of the story, with lots of great supernatural bits thrown in. Jen Van Meter’s first issue here is impressive, both in terms of the characterization and the story itself, and the art by Roberto De La Torre and David Baron is equally impressive though it can sometimes feel a bit less well-defined than it could be. Still, I loved this issue and will definitely be around for a few more.
The setup for this new series, and the new hero is interesting. Shan Fong is a paranormal investigator and a mystic of sorts since she has the ability to communicate with dead people and pass on their last messages and wishes to their loved ones. It is a thankless job, in part because she is unable to partake in the comfort that she gives to other people, with her own husband being dead for a while now and her being unable to contact him at all. Jen Van Meter sets up a really tragic character in this first issue, but also establishes that Shan Fong is no mere weakling, that she is far tougher and stronger than she looks. The first few pages are ample proof of that, and her brusque nature as well.
Soon as the intro is over, we move in to the main story, and that’s where things really take off. Shan is hired by a private billionaire to do some investigating for him, using her special talents and most of the issue deals with their first meeting, which is a rather intricate affair in terms of their back-and-forth play with feints and counterfeints. Linton March clearly has something to hide, and Shan doesn’t really care what, but she needs the job and decides to take him up on his offer, even after discovering his hideous secret.
What made this issue so great was how well Jen wrote the character of Shan. She is clearly a tortured soul, struggling to hold on to something ephemeral and an island unto herself. The way that her agent and friend often breaks her out of her moods was as well done as anything else, and if things continue as they are, I expect him to become a rather integral member of the supporting cast in short order.
There are some interesting supernatural elements to this story, which often give it a very personal and emotional feel, and that I liked it. The stakes here are always personal, so right off the bat it is clear that Jen isn’t playing for keeps. Things are dire and momentous and they deserve an appropriate response in the form of Shan Fong and her distinct abilities. Where the story goes from here, I’m not sure, but one thing I can tell you is that I’m really looking forward to more!
Roberto De La Torre is the penciller here with David Baron on colours and Dave Lanphear on letters and the cover by Travis Foreman. De La Torre’s art is often very busy and full of inking, lending the overall story a rather dark aspect that is not easy to shake off. Combined with the inner darkness and pain of the protagonist, that makes the story seem bleaker than it is, but I have to say that it does work well in the end precisely because of that. David Baron’s colours also contribute in that regard and in the final tally, the art here is indeed quite good.
When’s the next issue coming out?