“A Valiant Read” is a regular column in which we highlight some of the best jumping-on points for the Valiant Universe. Find out more.
After a hiatus, A Valiant Read is back! If you’re reading this column for the first time, it’s all about highlighting the jumping-on points for the modern Valiant Universe. For the tenth instalment, we’ll be taking a look at the five-issue miniseries The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage, by Jen Van Meter (Hopeless Savages), Roberto de la Torre (Invincible Iron Man) and others.
Read on to find out more about Doctor Mirage and the miniseries she stars in.
Who Is Doctor Mirage?
Shan Fong is Doctor Mirage, a paranormal investigator who can communicate with the dead. She uses this gift to solve crimes and help people find closure after the loss of loved ones.
She stopped using these abilities to help people after the death of her husband. Unable to process her pain, she became bitter towards others.
Before this miniseries, she appeared in Shadowman, with her first appearance in issue #5.
Written by Jen Van Meter. Art by Roberto de la Torre. Coloured by David Baron. Lettered by Dave Lanphear.
In the opening scene of The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage, the title character is seen relaying messages from the dead to grieving family members. It’s a gift that gives closure to others but brings her no joy. You see, a few years ago she lost her husband but is not able to communicate to him. When working with a billionaire with connections to the occult, she finds a clue to her husband’s whereabouts and sets off on a journey into the realm of the dead to find him.
The comic is an exploration of the grieving process and uses the journey as a metaphor for it. While I wouldn’t call it an adventure, it has it’s ups and downs, setbacks and wins, and at the end a sense of closure. When you look at it in those terms, it mirrors Doctor Mirage’s time in the realm of the dead. Without spoiling anything, she begins in a place where she cannot move past her husband’s death, negatively impacting her life, and through the journey, finds herself in a better place and even let go of the pain she feels.
Roberto de la Torre uses an ink-heavy style with rugged lines and solid blacks to render this supernatural world. This is topped off with texture that adds to the atmosphere and makes the world feel closed in at times. At times, the inverse is used, with empty space used to create emphasis on a subject. Other times, this negative space is used as a silhouette to create form in the foreground in interesting ways.
Colourist David Baron washes panels in a dominant colour to set the tone. For scenes in the real world, it’s often a warm yellow. For times of danger, it’s red. For cold and eerie places, it’s light blue. And purple signifies the unknown. These usages of colour go a long way to set the stories’ mood without relying on dialogue.
There are also some inventive implementations of lettering from Dave Lanphear. These include word balloons being sliced off the panel’s border to signify interruption and angled lettering when a character is knocked over. These little flourishes help tell the story as much as the actual dialogue themselves and are welcome additions to the comic.
Looking at this miniseries’ place in the Valiant Universe, it’s very accessible. While Doctor Mirage appeared in Shadowman prior, you don’t need to have read that series to understand this mini or the character. Everything you need to know is explained as you read along and not bogged down in any links to other comics. It makes this series easy to pick up and read as a standalone piece of work.
Those who are continuity focused might find the lack of links to other Valiant comics a little annoying. But by not explicitly mentioning other comics, it allows the universe to grow into different corners without relying on the rest of the publishing slate.
Speaking of the Valiant Universe, it was very dude-heavy up until this point. The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage bring women to the forefront, with the series the first to be written by a woman and having a female lead. It’s a welcome addition to Valiant’s comics and one you’ll start to see more of here on in.
Overall, The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage is a self-contained story that explores the journey of grief. It doesn’t get bogged down in the comings and goings of the Valiant Universe, making it an easy read whether you’re invested in the universe or not.
Want to read more Doctor Mirage? Check out the 2015 sequel called The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage: Second Lives.
The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage: Second Lives
Written by Jen Van Meter. Art by Roberto de la Torre.
Collects: Death-Defying Doctor Mirage: Second Lives #1-4
Doctor Mirage has also appeared in Shadowman’s second and third story arcs.
Shadowman Volume 2: Darque Reckoning
Written by Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher. Art by Patrick Zircher, Lee Garbett, Neil Edwards, and Roberto De La Torre.
Collects: Shadowman #5-9
Shadowman Volume 3: Darque Reckoning
Written by Justin Jordan, Jim Zub, Ales Kot, Christopher Sebela, Duffy Boudreau, and Neil Dvorak. Art by Roberto De La Torre, Mico Suayan, Lewis LaRosa, Diego Bernard, Andrea Cuneo, Miguel Sepulveda, CAFU, Matthew Southworth, and Neil Dvorak.
Collects: Shadowman #0 and Shadowman #10-12
Check out A Valiant Read #5 if you want to know more about Shadowman.
Finally, there was another Doctor Mirage miniseries in 2019.
Written by Magdalene Visaggio. Art by Nick Robles.
Join us next time when we take a look at Eternal Warrior!