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!...

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