Valiant superheroes are of course have less visibility compared to its more mainstream rivals, but as we wait for Vin Diesel to play Bloodshot in the first installment in a series of films set within a Valiant Comics shared cinematic universe, now would be a good time to catch up on other characters from Valiant that could make their big-screen debut, including the Death-Defying Doctor Mirage.
Created by Bob Layton and Bernard Chang in 1993, the original version of Doctor Mirage was a male paranormal investigator who worked alongside his wife and possesses black magic, specifically called “Darque Power”. When Valiant rebooted the character a few years ago, Mirage became a woman with similar origins who seeks to restore her ghostly husband, Hwen. This new limited series by Magdalene Visaggio and Nick Robles is a great opener for anyone wanting to learn about this superhero, who is all about the afterlife.
The story opens with our eponymous hero, who for the first time is truly alone — the dead, who have been her closest companions at an early age, are nowhere to be seen. Amongst the dead is her husband who has always stood by her side, even beyond the grave. When the sixteen year-old Grace Lugo finds Shan in her home, supposedly under the instruction of Hwen himself, Grace informs the doctor that the world they are living in is Hell and thus the two seek out the truth behind this that Shan hopes to be reunited with her deceased husband.
Despite her Sixth Sense sort of lifestyle that allows her to be a TV personality and paranormal investigator and scientist, seeing Shan in a depressed state at the start of the book sets up a compelling arc about her reuniting with her true love. In fact, she is committed to her quest to a fault, even in a flashback sequence that takes place months before where Shan and her spirited husband infiltrate the Cult of Isis in order to restore Hwen back to the living. With lettering by Dave Sharpe, there may be an inner monologue that gives us insight into Shan’s mental state, and there are also captions that evoke television announcements and direction that may evoke the character’s history as a TV personality, but aren’t always necessary (or clever).
Although the flashback sequence shows the fun banter between Shan and Hwen, it does slow the main story down, which is really about the relationship between her and Grace. The latter of which is new to exploring the Hereafter and believing she is dead, at least her advisement of Hwen who remains unseen throughout. Magdalene Visaggio writes great dialogue on the central relationship, which not only features pop culture references to humorous effect, but a sense of sympathy, especially when Shan understands the supernatural nature that the young Grace is going through, leading to a touching moment of embrace.
In terms of the world-building, Visaggio goes very in-depth with the mythology of it all, which feels more like preparing for the journey into “Hell”, allowing artist Nick Robles to present some trippy visuals. Along with Jordie Bellaire, one of the best colorists working comics today, Robles gives breathtaking landscapes that even though the story would take place in “Hell”, he doesn’t deliver tropes we’re all familiar with — the supernatural world that our hero journeys into rivals the psychedelic artwork of Steve Ditko. With the many strange patterns that occur throughout the book, there is still a human element with Robles providing such expressive character designs.
This new series is a journey into the unknown that is visually weird, but also humanly heartfelt, creating enough excitement in where the story will go next.