Writer: Jan Van Meter
Artist: Roberto de la Torre
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Supernatural comics are not easy to pull off. Just ask Dr. Strange or Dr. Fate, two of the absolute coolest characters in Big Two superhero comics (and undoubtedly the coolest helmet this side of the Chicago Bears); yet when was the last time you heard comic fans raving about a Big Two comic book series starring these experts in the supernatural? Aside from a Brian K. Vaughn miniseries here, and a Young Justice cameo there, times have been tough for the Doctors of the supernatural. So Valiant would have to be a little bit crazy to launch a book titled The Death Defying Dr. Mirage, right?
And that’s why I tend to love Valiant. There’s a fearlessness to new title launches in the Valiant Universe that comics tethered to Big Two continuity often can’t achieve. Purely in terms of synopsis, Death Defying Dr. Mirage sounds disastrous! A widowed expert in the occult speaks to ghosts of loved ones from the beyond and hopes one day to be able to speak with her deceased husband. Ugh! So The Sixth Sense meets Ghost. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Despite all those reasons this comic should not work, guess what? The first issue is captivating, full, and intensely intriguing. Nobody in comics quite nails restoring a comic property with a fresh six issues like Valiant, and “The Death-Defying Dr. Mirage #1” maintains the precedent. Writer Jan Van Meter and artist Roberto de la Torre establish a well-rounded world in just one issue, a world that falls both familiar and excitingly open-ended. Much like Shadowman, Valiant’s other foray into the supernatural, we have a gifted protagonist suddenly pulled into a supernatural mystery beyond their immediate understanding. In the case of Dr. Mirage, this means she goes from reuniting the grieving with their loved ones to a rich old billionaire asking for help with an ancient magic talisman that bonds him to a haunting zombie he keeps in his basement (classic rich old billionaire).
Of course, there’s the other enormously important feature of Dr. Mirage separating her from Shadowman, namely the fact that Dr. Mirage is Valiant’s first female-led solo title since their relaunch. This realization took me by surprise given Valiant’s track record for pushing against the status quo, but nonetheless it’s the first. Through one issue, it’s a great first, as Dr. Mirage is tough-as-nails, painfully honest, and not willing to take crap from anyone. While the early story focus is on Dr. Mirage tracking down her husband in the aftermath, Van Meter paints a broad enough character that Dr. Mirage feels far from being defined by her husband.
I really enjoyed this first issue of Dr. Mirage from Valiant and recommend giving the series a look. The issue really dives into the story and world of the characters without devoting much time at all to origins and explanations. For example, it’s still almost entirely unclear how or why Dr. Mirage can speak with the dead or what even happened to her husband (if I’m remembering right, this is how the ’90s series began, and I like the change in structure so far). Roberto de la Torre’s art is tremendously consistent, providing a dark tone throughout, with the looming feeling that a much creepier and more sinister presence is lurking in future issues. Van meter also writes a polished script that exhibits an impressive grasp on the character and world for the first issue. Give this one a look for a new series on your pull list.
“The Death-Defying Dr. Mirage #1” earns 8.0 / 10