The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage Vol 1 by Jen Van Meter
Art: Roberto de la Torre
This book was very much hit or miss for me. There were aspects of Shan Fong’s story that I greatly appreciate and other parts that were muddled and seemingly without direction. This was the first Valiant title I’ve ever read so I’m completely unfamiliar with the universe and its rules. However, from what I’ve seen, they’ve been relaunching it and the stories are supposed to build the world for readers.
Van Meter did a wonderful job at showing the story between Shan and Hwen. About explaining how they met and how he died. I bought their epic love story which continued beyond Hwen’s death. I felt Shan’s pain over losing him and her depression and self-imposed isolation and how she locked herself away in the house they built together.
Torre’s art was somewhat of a miss for me. The scratchy and sketchy nature of it sometimes complimented the story and in other cases made it more muddled. With the otherworldly creatures, I wanted more definition. Torre’s art also didn’t lend itself to a wide variety of facial expressions. I would’ve loved to see more emotion from Shan’s face, especially since so much of this book’s narrative rode on emotions.
Shan’s reluctance to use her powers worked really well in the first issue when she met with the widowers. However, when she actually headed to the underworld(s), I had a hard time telling if she didn’t really know how to fully use her powers, if she didn’t know how they’d function without Hwen (not having pushed herself since his death), or if she was just scared to do so.
The entire plot with the demons led by Ivros didn’t work for me. It seemed like a sidestep and an extra stake in this book. While I did love the wrap up where Hwen and Shan had to sacrifice their life together (again) and this played into what they had to do, it was still excessive and seemingly distracted from the mission. The rules around the underworld were confusing, and I couldn’t figure out if I was just supposed to know them or if Van Meter was making it up as she went. I felt we were supposed to know things about the Pale Mistress and the Thalian that aren’t in here.
The reveal that Shan also died with Hwen — she just was saved in time to be revived — worked so beautifully. The integration of it into the story and how the reveal happened and their second sacrifice really lifted this book from three stars to four stars. It was lovely and beautiful. Their love shined through.
Linton March’s punishment for his crimes seemed very fitting. Linton got his wish and more. Much more. In a be careful what you wish for manner. The Thalian definitely gave back to Shan for her saving him from his bond.
This trade also included an excerpt from Shadowman #5 by Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher and art by Patrick Zircher. I immediately gagged at Shan’s unzipped catsuit with her tits out. Seriously, that’s a trend from the Big Two that Valiant shouldn’t be copying. It left a bad taste in my mouth and a sour end to an otherwise delightful story.
Community’s all we have, and you can support these comic book reviews by becoming a superhero on my Patreon.