Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Second Life of Doctor Mirage #16, #17, and #18 (Classic Valiant)

Here we are, at the final issues of The Second Life of Doctor Mirage, a series that ended far too soon...

Ghostly paranormal investigators Hwen and Carmen Mirage are handed a case by police lieutenant Thomas Morgan, who tells them of an unexplainable mass disappearance on a subway train. Later that night, when the couple are at a dinner function at a museum with Carmen's hostile parents, the villainous Deathsmith attacks. Responsible for the subway horror, the Deathsmith wants to amass as much necromantic energy as he can, and his sights are instantly turned to Hwen and Carmen, who are soaked in the stuff. Hwen finds that the necromancer is somehow blocking his powers, and now unable to transform into his powerful intangible state, Hwen and Carmen have to rely solely on their wits to defeat the Deathsmith and his legion of monstrous creations...

This is a very entertaining story of The Second Life of Doctor Mirage! It is only a two-issue long fight scene with an issue of setup, but it's well-handled because the locations change and the story isn't just in a single place, the villain and his powers are very interesting, and the subplot elsewhere with Rico helps make the story feel bigger. The plot isn't perfect though, which I'll get into when I discuss the villain.

Just as with last issue, there's narration here too, and like last issue, it's effective with its placement, and doesn't supplant Hwen's actual dialogue.

Aside from the issues I have with the villain, the only problem I have with this story is through no fault its own. The ending is a rather downbeat cliffhanger, which'd be fine, if this wasn't the last issue.

The characters this story are very good! We've got the proactive and highly resourceful leads, who have to fight a powerful necromancer without the aid of Hwen's reliable powers. They don't really get a whole lot of development to them though, given the real-time immediacy to the plot, but they do at least get some character, thankfully, in regards to their feelings towards Carmen's parents.

Then there's Carmen's parents, who are a lot less hospitable towards Hwen than his own caring mother. They're well-written, are a good addition to the story, and they don't go the cliched route of hating Hwen, then getting attacked by the story's villain and saved by their son-in-law, leading them to have a newfound respect for him. They do have a newfound like and respect for Hwen come the story's end, but it comes more naturally, and they never come into contact with any danger to force a sudden change out of them.

Even Rico gets the beginnings of some intriguing character! He's just comic relief, yet still worthy of having an actually interesting and dramatic backstory, with ripe potential for future stories, had they ever come about.

While the Deathsmith's name is a bit laughable, he's a decently written, intimidating villain, with some dark deeds under his belt, and very nifty body-horror elements to his powers. Unfortunately, his personality bears a slight resemblance to recurring Valiant villain Dr. Eclipse. They're both grinning necromantic maniacs who psychotically crack wise, but their powers and physical make-up are very different, which helps set them apart. Also annoying is Deathsmith's total lack of backstory, or motivation. He just wants to kill people because he does. At least he gets some amusing dialogue-"You have such lovely eyes! Mind if I keep 'em?"

The art in these issues is very good for the most part, but there are a couple of problems. The first is that Lieutenant Morgan's hair is completely grey in Issue #16, but in the following ones, it's back to being brown, as it should have been from the get go! Another is that some characters, Rico in particular, look pretty ridiculously bug-eyed in a couple of scenes. At the end, there's an effective two-page spread, which provides a fitting and flashy end to a neat climax, and most importantly, it's not confusing, nor does it waste a single bit of space for the rest of the issue's events!

The covers to these issues are pretty good, and nicely dynamic!

This is a very entertaining storyline, and as a three-parter with a grand showdown of a climax, it's in a way, fitting at being the impromptu finale it is, although that status is undercut a bit by the cliffhanger...

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