By Jen Van Meter, Roberto De La Torre, Diego Bernard with Tom Palmer, David Baron
The third act of The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage: Second Lives, writer Jen Van Meter’s supernatural love and adventure tale, hits shelves on February 10th. It’s a solid book that ups the ante for the heroes, plants seeds for future story conflicts, and sets the stage for the final act of this miniseries.
Second Lives is a cerebral read, heavier on exposition than action. This works in its favor as much of the plot conflict is shrouded in mystery, which deserves to be spooled out slowly as readers follow the various threads of the investigation. The events never feel shorted or rushed. The plot is not oversimplified, and the result is a story that fills every page of the book, making it feel like a longer read than the standard comic.
Valiant has been presenting the Doctor Mirage title in miniseries format. Second Lives is aptly, the second miniseries for the title. A positive aspect to this approach versus a regular title is that the characters and their plight don’t become stale. There is no threat of the tedium of “bad guy of the week/month”. Each miniseries functions like its own novella. Subtlety and nuance are used to tease ideas and asides for future installments. The lesser bits of the story help make this title the success that it is. The larger plot focuses on an event or potential crisis, but the side stories regarding relationships, trust, and the character’s inner lives give the book richness and depth.
Artistically, this book differs from the others in the series. Roberto De La Torre has penciled and inked the title since the first miniseries debuted in 2014, and he has set the standard by which Mirage can be identified. Moody, textured yet elegant pencils and inks, aided by the expressive colors of David Baron, create the hallmark haunted feel for this supernatural story. Life on another plane of existence has never looked better. There isn’t another story like the Mirages’ in the Valiant Universe, and its looks are as distinctive as its tale. Interestingly, this issue includes segments of art by Diego Bernard with Tom Palmer providing ink duties. Diego is an excellent illustrator in his own right and most notably has had a successful run on X-O Manowar. His work here is good as well, but its inclusion here is confusing.
Valiant on occasion employs two artists on a single book, normally to help visually emphasize a shift in time period such as a flashback. In this case, Bernard’s work is inserted into the middle of the story. There is no time shift nor a change in locale that De La Torre hadn’t already illustrated earlier in the book. Hypothetically speaking, this substitution was likely made in order to get the book out on time. Valiant Entertainment has never missed a book’s deadline in the four years that they have been publishing. That record is extraordinary. Maintaining that record means having a second artist assist on occasion. The potential pitfall is disrupting to the reader’s immersion, which was my experience with this story. The artist switches were a distraction rather than a roadblock, however, and the continuity provided by colorist Baron and letterer Dave Lanphear helped to keep the flow.
Overall, The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage: Second Lives #3 delivers. The plot pacing is tight, providing a variety of emotional charges as readers reel from despair then catapult into action, leaving us waiting breathlessly for the axe to fall. De La Torre’s classic haunted feel is bolstered by Baron’s evocative coloring. Bernard’s clean lines, adeptly inked by Palmer, are showcased in the daytime outdoor scenes, and their brightness provides a normalcy and strong contrast to the murk and mystery of the Mirages’ lives. Next issue is the conclusion to the miniseries. Don’t miss out on this unique story of love eternal.