Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Second Life of Doctor Mirage #11 (Classic Valiant)

In 1994, Valiant Comics started their second event comic, Chaos Effect. While their previous event Unity was a huge success apparently (I think it's a pile of crap, but that's neither here nor there), there are many fans of the company who feel that it started to go downhill during this period. Now, I will have words to say about Chaos Effect another time, but let's leave that rant out of this review. Long story short, it's not a very good event comic. Not Ultimatum or Countdown bad, but no Secret Wars good either. Today, I'll be looking at the tie-in issue for supernatural-horror-domestic comedy The Second Life of Doctor Mirage...

In a monastery in Ladakh, Tibet, some time after the presiding monks were slaughtered by evil necromancer Master Darque, it's began to flourish again. That soon changes when a massive eclipse suddenly appears in the sky above the temple, quickly spreading over the entire Earth, to devastating effect to anything electronic/mechanical (i.e. cars stop working, hospitals lose power, planes crash, etc). Phantom Hwen Mirage is one of the lucky few, and is imbued with incredible power by the effect, due to his necromantic status. No longer an intangible phantom, Hwen and his wife Carmen help out many people affected by the catastrophic weather changes, and soon they're approached by Sandria Darque, a mysterious necromancer and sort-of ally of the Mirages, informs them of the origin of the Chaos Effect, telling Hwen that he is the one who can help stop it...

The depressing stuff that happens due to the Chaos Effect aside, this is a highly entertaining issue of Second Life. It's well-written, got great characters, and a radical change for them with Hwen regaining solidity, which he's been pining for for months. It's just a shame that this issue just stops moreso than it ends, but I understand why, as it's a lead in to events in the official title.

One aspect I really like is that when the Chaos disaster starts wreaking havoc with the world, Hwen and Carmen aren't off battling supervillains, but instead spend hours helping with relief work! This really shows what likeable and proactive characters these are!

The writing is very good, especially Hwen's monologue at the end. There are a couple of bits of comedy here, but not as much as usual, given the darker plot. One's a darkly funny line from Rico during the airport riot, and one scene that I don't like so much, when Hwen (sorry) gains solidity, and he and Carmen immediately strip down and bang for an hour. I imagine they'd be very keen to get to sexy times after so many months of not being able to touch, but maaaybe when a massive necromantic eclipse has swallowed the Earth is a bad time!

The start of this issue spends three whole pages showing scenes from Issue #1. This would be a HUGE problem if not for the fact the the writers of Second Life were always capable of writing fulfilling standalone issues, unlike other Valiant series'. Despite those three pages, as well as splash page, this still tells a full story (minus the above-mentioned lack of ending, obviously). Also, those pages are a nice recap and segue into establishing the new monks of Ladakh.

Onto the negatives I have with this issue. The first is with the annoying monks at Ladakh. In one scene, a pupil asks his master why the monks aren't seeking vengeance against Darque for his massacre, and he answers by saying that change is inevitable, and the monks should just roll with it, as well as pulling the 'Everything happens for a reason' excuse, and saying that "A greater good will come from that tragedy, mark my words". Excuse me? After the massacre, only more bad happened, such as a portal of pure death opening in Ladakh, killing thousands across the globe and signalling the possible end of the world! That's not a greater good! The only 'greater good' that came is that a few heroes actually did something to stop the disaster, instead of sitting on their asses preaching how doing nothing is productive!

Another thing I dislike about this issue is that when the Mirages and Darque meet, the necromancer says "As my sister is fond of telling you, you are the one". I don't like that Darque knows what his sister has been up to, as given her attitude and behaviour, it'd make more sense if he was in the dark about it. At least the line's not as bad as what I originally misread it as, which was 'me'  instead of 'you'! That would really have muddled character continuity!

My final problem in this issue is with the last page. Not only is there an extreme disconnect between it and the previous page due to the abrupt scene transition, but the penultimate page is of Hwen comforting a distraught Carmen,  saying about how maybe stopping the Chaos Effect and saving the Earth was the reason he was given a second life, and he bravely flies up to plug the hole...and then suddenly the next page is of him struggling to hold back the Chaos Effect, screaming for help. Kinda undercutting your hero there, aren't ya, series?!

The artwork here is quite good! Faces are a bit odd or angular here and there, but nothing serious, besides from one scene, when the new monks are living at Ladakh. Their masters are drawn as ghostly blue (just as the dead ones are), to the point that you could be forgiven for thinking they're ghosts of the murdered monks! It's just an odd shading choice though.

The cover is great! The imagery of Hwen and Carmen finally embracing is fantastic, and the Chaos Effect negative swirly imagery is actually nicely evocative and eerie-ish, rather than pointless and repetitive like it is on a lot of the other Chaos Effect tie-in covers.

To finish, this is a very good issue, and if you're gonna pick up anything related to Chaos Effect, then make it this...

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