Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Second Life of Doctor Mirage #9 and #10 (Classic Valiant)

It's been months since paranormal investigator Hwen Mirage was turned into a phantom when he crossed the evil necromancer Master Darque, and he's settled back into life as best as he can. Hwen and is wife Carmen look into a case that seems to be a possession, but turns out to be much more serious, and now the paranoid and violent Otherman, capable of creating unstoppable ectoplasmic constructs, is after the duo...

This is an extremely entertaining two-parter of Valiant Comics' supernatural-horror-domestic-comedy series The Second Life of Doctor Mirage! It's great fun, and it has a nice hero-villain dynamic, which supplies some really awesome moments!

The plot isn't all that complex. The Mirages investigate a paranormal case, and the villain involved in said case goes after them. What saves this story from the drag of such a potentially mediocre plot is the writing, the characters, and the humour.

There are many funny moments in this story, my favourite being when Hwen is trying to think of how to break the news to his mother that he's an incorporeal phantom. There's one amusing dual moment where both Hwen and Carmen wonder if Shadowman has problems like they do. Funny story, I read Issue #12 of Second Life before this one, so for a moment I thought this issue was reusing that line...Then I realized it was the other way round! Still, Issue #12 uses the line better! Not that it's a bad or unfunny line here or anything-I just prefer the later use.

Hwen and Carmen are, as usual, likeable and resourceful main characters. They're never one-note, and always investigate and solve supernatural/paranormal problems in interesting ways. Plus, neither of them get sidelined for the sake of the other, which is also great!

This two-parter introduces Mae Fong, Hwen's mother. She has technically appeared before, in voice only cameos, and in a time-traveling Shadowman scene in Issue #5, but this is her first proper appearance, and thankfully she sticks around permanently from here on out. Mae Fong is a badass! She's a well-written character, with a distinct personality, rather than just a cardboard cutout. She's forceful, though very loving, and despite being an older woman in the presence of otherworldly ectoplasm monsters, she'll still throw down with the best of them!

The Otherman is quite a good villain, even if his dialogue in one scene (pictured below) is a bit hamfisted thanks to its exposition-y nature, but at least he has motivations, and we know them well. I recently watched the Season 2 premiere of Agents of SHIELD, where the villain, The Absorbing Man, had as much personality as he had dialogue-None!

The Otherman's motivations have the potential to be extremely sexist on the part of the writer, as it could end up as 'Bad guy wants to take hero's wife for himself, as he wants to take the MAN'S property as a trophy', and thankfully this doesn't come across like that at all. The Otherman wants for Carmen because he's been constantly persecuted for his appearance and is cripplingly lonely, rather than anything Women in Refrigerators related.

Finally, onto the Harbinger Foundation. It's a big player in the Valiant shared universe, but if you're new to the company, and are only reading Dr. Mirage, then you don't need to know anything. There's no mention of the evil Valiant supervillain Harada, or anything tying into him, and instead it's simply a shady organization dealing with paranormal people that ties into The Otherman's backstory.

The artwork in these issues is very good. The only negative is Rico. His face is drawn pretty weirdly and poorly in some spots. The backgrounds during the Mirage-Otherman fights in Issue #10 are made up largely of wavy colours, but that's at least intentional, due to the 'magical' fight going on.

The covers are a mixed bag. The characters and actions look good, but the backgrounds are lacking. On Issue #9's cover, there's just a gradient yellow/orange background, while on Issue #10's, it looks like the fight's taking place in an alleyway, as opposed to a beach home.

Issues #9 and #10 of The Second Life of Doctor Mirage make up an awesome two-parter, and I can't recommend them enough!...

The Second Life of Doctor Mirage #8 (Classic Valiant)

Ever since his deadly encounter with evil necromancer Master Darque, paranormal investigator Hwen Mirage has been a phantom. While he now has extraordinary powers to manipulate energy, he can't touch anything, including his wife Carmen. One day, Hwen is feeling frustrated over never being able to eat, which seems like an innocuous enough problem at first, but soon he starts feeling hunger pains, and his powers start to fade. Realizing that he needs to absorb necromantic energy to survive, Hwen sets out on finding a solution to his dilemma, even if it means confronting the very necromancer who originally took his life...

Issue #8 of The Second Life of Doctor Mirage is, as usual, a highly enjoyable read! It's a self-contained story, easily accommodating to new readers, and gets across good characterization. This issue mostly keeps its attention on the title character, Hwen Mirage, as he experiences new difficulties with his unique condition. While Hwen is the main focus, we do still get to know what Carmen is like (mainly that she's not just a pretty face, but is an extremely intelligent scientist too).

As well as having a well-written plot, which brings up some uncomfortable truths about how Hwen may have to sustain his necromantic existence, Issue #8 of Doctor Mirage is also quite funny. The humour never feels forced, and while it's not hilarious, the general good nature of this series is more than enough to bring a broad grin to my face!

This issue has some build-up for things to come in the series in the form of character Sandria Darque making cryptic statements about Hwen being 'The One', and I was actually surprised to know that this leads somewhere, because every prior comic in the Valiant shared universe with Sandria Darque that I've read has her character being mysterious for mystery's sake, like an episode of Lost rather than an actual character with definable goals.

The artwork this issue is very good! Faces in a few panels look a bit angular, but not poorly drawn. Overall, this is very pleasing to the eye!

This is an immensely satisfying issue of The Second Life of Doctor Mirage, and I highly recommend it!

Q2: The Return of Quantum and Woody #1 (New Valiant)

Finally, my most anticipated comic series of the year is out-Q2: The Return of Quantum and Woody!

Quantum and Woody was an extremely popular comedy superhero series from Acclaim Comics back in the '90's, and it's gotten more fans with age. It's so good that as of this date, it's the only original comic from Acclaim's Valiant lineup that New Valiant has remade! And naturally, the current version is a joy to read too! The reason behind this new miniseries existing is that the original Q&W series was cancelled in 2000, and its story was never finished. Now, Valiant has awesomely let original series creators Christopher Priest and MD Bright to make a sequel miniseries! That is so cool of them to allow that!

It's been twenty years since the superhero duo Quantum and Woody were at large, and they seem to have since retired. One night, however, Woody van Chelton finds out that Quantum is back in the game, fighting a powerful superhuman soldier at a museum. Quantum loses the fight, and Woody helps him out, soon realizing that this isn't Eric Henderson, but a new hero taking up the mantle...

This issue is really just an introduction to this miniseries. We don't get a huge insight into the personalities of the title characters, nor do we know who the two new ones are, or who apparent villain Koro is. We don't even know what the story is yet.

With all these problems into account, if this was the first issue in a regular series, its structure's execution would be terrible, but as Q2 is a miniseries, I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, as this is just the first section of a bigger story, rather than a regular first issue (not that such a thing exists in today's comic industry though).

As this issue is mostly an introduction, there's not a whole lot of humour on display. Hopefully there's more as the series continues.

One thing I can judge about Q2's writing at this stage is that it's good. It's too soon to tell if the non-linear structure will complement the rest of the story at this stage, but it seems interesting so far. This issue is mildly accommodating to readers who are new to all things Quantum and Woody, but only come the end. If you don't know what this franchise is about, you'll be pretty lost until Woody starts explaining the duo's origin to the other 'Woody'.

The art here is very good, although Woody's face does look a bit odd in a couple of places. As for the cover, it looks neat and stylish, though Woody's face is blocky and weird, especially thanks to the shadows covering him.

On its own, I'm not sure what to think of this. As this is Quantum and Woody, I can't not recommend Q2's first issue, but I suggest getting it when the whole series is out, so you can read the whole story at once, and get the proper effect. If you've already read it and have immediately lost optimism, finding it a confusing mess and hoping for the return of the current Quantum and Woody series ASAP, well you don't need to worry, as it's just on hiatus because of the duo co-starring in Valiant crossover The Delinquents, and following that, it'll be coming out concurrently with Q2, so you won't be missing out on the iteration you prefer...

Doctor Spektor, Master of the Occult #3 (Dynamite Comics)

It's been about six months since four-issue miniseries Doctor Spektor, Master of the Occult started, and it's still only three-quarters out! That's the Dynamite Gold Key schedule screwups in a nutshell. Fucking punks, making the same damn mistake that Dark Horse made in 2010 when they remade these exact same properties! I wish you could punch synchronicity in the face!

Reality TV paranormal investigator Dr. Adam Spektor is caught up in some interdimensional stuff, while his dedicated assistant Abby may or may not be in an alternate universe that is not actually alternate, and doesn't really exist, except that it does. Stuff happens with her too.

...That really is the best I can do for you. There's no other way to summarize the plot to this mess of a series!

As I said in my review for the last two issues of Doctor Spektor, the first was an interesting opener to a series on the paranormal and the ooky, with an interesting framing for events, while the dreadful second issue completely threw everything-the series' own conceit included-out the window in favour of inter-dimensional hijinks! The original Gold Key Occult Files of Doctor Spektor was a simple series about a paranormal investigator. It had a couple of crossovers with other Gold Key characters here and there, and that was it, yet the Dynakey 'remake' is using that as an excuse to turn this damn thing into Crisis of Infinite Spektors!

The story, or lack thereof, here is pathetic! Three issues in, and we still have no idea what this plot is! Oh there's an explanation alright, but it doesn't mean things are actually happening. And the exposition dumps we get masquerading as plot are clunky, boring, and incredibly confusing! Since there's only one issue left to this rotten mess, it seems like there'll be the bare minimum of room left to explain everything, resolve everything, have character moments, and end this miniseries.

But then again, the characters of this miniseries have been lacking from the get-go! Abby's sole defining trait is that she's Doctor Spektor's assistant, and she has to help him because her boss really, really wants her to. Spektor has no character to him, besides wanting to bang a dream woman for no reason, and the same goes for everyone else in this mess! Gail is a person who talks, while the Gold Key characters are even less!

While this miniseries purports to be a crossover with the other Dynakey characters (Solar, Man of the Atom, Magnus, Robot Fighter, and Turok, Dinosaur Hunter), it isn't really. Those characters appear, but it's entirely superficial. Turok has literally no dialogue save for 'Haha!', and Magnus, who gets the most dialogue, is completely different to how he is in his own series. The Gold Key characters amount to nothing here, as they have literally zero character or personality to them (and are a doubly pointless addition to those reading this series who don't know about the other Dynakey series'), and all they do is kill jail guards who don't exist but not really, because because.

The rest of the writing has characters saying really stupid things (such as Magnus being angry that Spektor is being uncooperative and unbelieving of his story, despite the fact that Magnus is the one who just attacked him, unprovoked, without saying a word), or being just plain contradictory (like Gail's actions and dialogue althroughout this issue, as she assures Abby that the world she is currently in is one of 'Nothing' by showing her the absurd things present, such as ancient Native American Indian warriors and costumed superheroes, then is suddenly working with them, as if they're real, because apparently they are. Although they're probably not. But are. This series is a confusing mess!).

The artwork is very mixed! Sometimes it's good, but a lot of the time, it's amateurish. Skin tones change constantly, and the angles are sometimes =. Worst is the clashing art-Some parts are harshly inked, whereas other moments are clear and polished. The cover is bland as hell. It shows almost nothing, and it a complete non-sequitur.

Issue #3 of Doctor Spektor, Master of the Occult is dreadful! It's at least more of a Point A to Point B story than the insanely structured previous issue, but it's still a confusing load of garbage that accomplishes nothing!

In about a fortnight, the concluding issue to Doctor Spektor, Master of the Occult may come out, but it'll probably fail to again, even though it should have come out two frakking months ago! If you like this series, I apologize for your bad luck. If you've never read this series, I suggest you keep things that way. To me, this series is nothing but a cheap version of notorious Valiant-Image crossover Deathmate...