Friday, August 8, 2014

The Second Life of Doctor Mirage #1 and #2 (Classic Valiant)

I may have posted a lot of negative reviews for Valiant comics, but don't let that make you think I hate the company, or that I dislike all its series'. If I truly hated the company, I'd just publish one post, called Valiant Sucks, and Here's Why: Now Let Us Never Speak of it Again. I write reviews chiding their many failures because that can lead to knowledge of improvement for other writers.

Out of the Valiant lines that I truly love, there are two-The H.A.R.D. Corps, and today's comic The Second Life of Doctor Mirage!...

Hwen and Carmen Mirage are doctors and parapsychologists, with a particularly keen interest in necromancy. One day, they're given two bodies by the police to test on, which are exhibiting a strange form of cellular activity, despite no life signs. When Hwen* does a specific test on one of the bodies, it gets the attention of necromancer Master Darque, who reanimates the corpses to claim Hwen's life essence. Luckily, he and Carmen are able to fight them off, destroying them. The two track down Master Darque, and at his New Orleans estate they find his sister Sandria, who tells them of her brother's departure to Ladakh, to find the remains of a former Geomancer (earth seer) and gain immense power from it.

*To my Chinese audience, I apologize for that terrible joke.

The husband and wife team confront Darque after they find that he's murdered every single monk at the Ladakh temple, and Hwen is seemingly killed as Darque absorbs his lifeforce. However, both Hwen and Carmen's will, and their love for each-other allow him to escape Darque's grasp, albeit in a diminished form as a phantom...

This is a great two-part story! It feels like you're reading a movie! There are numerous varied scenes, and each issue manages to tell a fine amount of story in their twenty page constraints. I just don't understand why so many writers nowadays take five issues just to tell one damn story! You can easily tell a complete, fulfilling one in only a single issue if you're a good enough writer. And besides having arcs four/five/six issues long is horrible because nearly half a year will have passed, and you've only established the bare minimum in your series!

Not only is the story here highly enjoyable, but the characters are great too! Hwen Mirage (or Hwen Dong Fong as his original name is later revealed to be) is a bookish type, replete with both money and intelligence, while his Brazilian wife Carmen Ruiz is a badass! She's the 'tough guy' of the series, proficient at Capoeira, and by no means a damsel. This aspect, along with having both heroes be ethnic, makes this series really stand out!

The series hasn't quite entered the 'superhero' phase yet, as this is the origin story. Hwen's powers are neat, and since Being Human rules apply to the clothes you die in, he just so happened to be 'killed' in a snazzy ski suit that can easily double as a superhero outfit!

As for the origin itself, sure, it's soppy that Hwen is brought back from death by the power of love, but the series is written well enough that you don't really care. And besides, he's only a necromantic hologram, basically, so it's not that much of a cop-out.

Master Darque, while ultimately a dull villain, is presented well here. As for his sister Sandria, she's still mysterious for mysterious' sake.

When it comes to continuity, reading Shadowman isn't necessary to understand who Master Darque and his sister are, nor would one need to read Eternal Warrior to understand what a Geomancer is, as this story does a good job at establishing the concept for new readers.

Another bit of continuity is that this particular temple in Ladakh Just So Happens to be the exact one other main Valiant character Archer trained at. Well that makes things depressing, doesn't it!

The artwork is very good, with numerous scenes that look fantastic, namely a panel of Darque on a cliff at the end of #2-Very Ninja Gaiden-esque. The covers for both issues look great! Just like with HARD Corps Issues #5, #6, and #7, the first five issues of Dr. Mirage I own are physical, not digital, so again, no images for this post. But hopefully that just makes anyone interested even more curious to see what the series is like.

Now, as for my one and only problem with this two parter...The writing is a tiny bit repetitive when it comes to Hwen's dislike for gooey things. Yep, that's all I have to complain about here!

Now, coming this September is a remake from New Valiant, called The Death Defying Dr. Mirage. I'd be optimistic if it wasn't for 1, the depressing (or at the very least, downbeat) tone it seems to have, 2, the shitty artwork, which looks like little Billy scrawled a few people with amateur pencil sketching, and 3, it's only a miniseries (although if this is really good, and is very well-received, who knows what may come from that). I'll buy, read, and review that once the trade is out. For now, I'll stick with classic Dr. Mirage, and I highly recommend you do to!...

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