Death-Defying: A deeper look at Dr. Mirage
Warning: Article Contains Spoilers
Jen Van Meter’s beguiling tale of hope, love, and personal sacrifice wraps up with the fifth book in the miniseries. A mix of genres, this series takes readers on a journey from the world-outside-your-window to the mysterious unknown of the spirit dimension. Part action, suspense, and horror, readers navigate the underworld alongside Mirage as her quest turns from a personal nature into one of global significance. Doctor Mirage is a stranger in a foreign land, and unfamiliar with its customs, she barters her way through treacherous territory while trying to determine the true intent of those she encounters. Her reason for doing so is love, and despite her arsenal of natural talent and occult objects, hope is her strongest tool.
If that description sounds like a love story, in some aspects, it is true. This book is so much more however. Personal struggles and victory, true acts of heroism, selflessness and sacrifice – delivered to us through action and adventure. Without giving away too many details of the plot, let’s take a look at some of the themes, starting with the series title.
Mirage, as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary, is: “something that is seen and appears to be real but that is not actually there.” The aptly titled “The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage” embodies this notion on several levels.
The spirits of the dead that visit Shan Mirage in our world are seen but not actually here – invisible to most people and tied to another realm. Shan herself becomes spectre-like when she leaves her body behind in our mortal realm while her soul visits the underworld. Even in death, her husband Hwen is seen but in some essence not really here – his mortal body gone, his soul tethered to another creature, visible to us only as long as it inhabits this plane.
Just as the theory of mirage works on many levels, so does the concept of “death-defying”. From the outset, it would appear that the phrase refers to her ability to speak with the dead, an act that defies the notion of the finality of death. It also is a nod to how she fought against death by reuniting her soul with her stolen body. In her past, she was resuscitated after nearly drowning, once again defying death even though it claimed Hwen. A closer examination of the storyline reveals despite surviving that brush with death, she experienced living death. She was of this world, but her despair over the loss of her husband and her inability to speak with his spirit kept her from truly living. She describes herself as “not being there” and took sanctuary away from the living in the home that she had shared with Hwen. It was all that she had left of him, and there she dwelled. By the story’s conclusion, they have had the opportunity to say goodbye. Shan has accepted his sacrifice and has chosen to live again – rebuilding her life, starting with the rebuilding of her home. Her home – that she says – is for living. This act of acceptance is her ultimate defiance of death. It shall not overcome her. Love and hope will live on. Then, just as we are resigned to accepting that the lovers are no more, Hwen’s essence is returned to Shan in our realm. More defiance.
Of course, Valiant provided us with the best death cheat of them all – a teaser picture saying Shan and Hwen will return in “The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage: Second Life.” Van Meter’s careful crafting breathed new life into Shan Mirage after her brief appearances in “Shadowman.” Artist Roberto De La Torre and colorist David Baron set the proper tone and illustrated a world unique to the Valiant universe. The talent has yet to be officially announced, but I hope they continue with the creative team from this miniseries. I’m looking forward to reading more about the Mirages and seeing how they fit into the larger universe. In fact, you could say I’m dying to read it.
Originally from ValiantCentral.com