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The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage: Second Lives #4

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By Jen Van Meter, Roberto De La Torre with Al Barrionuevo, Brian Level, David Baron

The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage: Second Lives comes to a bittersweet end.

The final act of The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage: Second Lives bows on March 23rd ; a four-part miniseries that continues the adventures of supernatural experts, Shan and Hwen Mirage, Death-Defying is a twist on traditional love stories. Love is eternal for the Mirages, and not even death parts them for long: Hwen is a ghost. Together they perform supernatural investigations, and this time out, find themselves embroiled in a life or death plot that reaches beyond the grave.

Second Lives embraces both intrigue and the supernatural, making this book a good option for those who like mystery with a tinge of horror. There is murder and mayhem, but it’s done with restraint, making the true horror less physical and more about the understanding of the harm we do to one another.

As learned from previous issues, Shan and Hwen are facing an enemy nearly impossible to beat; a ghost who not only wields magic but has become magic. Truly evil deeds have been done, and with his malevolent intentions clear, the Mirages’ must prepare to sacrifice all that they are to stop him from becoming indestructible. Without revealing specifics, the conclusion to this story epitomizes “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Van Meter reveals a final secret in the last panel, teasing readers with a possible new storyline.

The pacing of the story is done well. Van Meter begins with setting an almost mournful mood, refreshing the tension that was building since the last issue. From there we are moved into action as we plan and prep for the dramatics of the final confrontation. Finally, readers can let out that breath they’ve been holding regarding Hwen. We’re not given a fairy-tale ending – far from it, but we’re not left without hope.

This is a supernatural tale, and as such, employs spells, mysticism, and ghosts as part of the experience. The potion-making and exposition scenes are intriguing, but not overwhelming as to lose readers’ attention. These scenes of physically making magic add flavor to the script and serve to reinforce the idea of the precision needed by the Mirages. The overall effect is believable rather than fantastical, allowing readers to suspend disbelief and become invested.

Artistically, Second Lives is gorgeous. Roberto De La Torre returns as illustrator along with Al Barrionuevo and inker Brian Level assisting. Veteran Second Lives colorist David Baron returns, as does letterer Dave Lanphear. This is a larger team than usual for this book, but there is a synergy to their work. They don’t merely depict events or lead us through the issue; akin to an orchestra, each plays their part in harmony, serving to propel readers through the story while conducting emotions. The lines, textures, and colors combine to give the storyline more emotional wallop. A great example of this is a scene where we can see the sorrow and worry in Shan’s expression and body language. The colors are somber, reflecting the emotional darkness, and the point is emphasized with texturing in the background. This is in high contrast to the buoyancy and brilliance of depictions of pure magic or the angry tonality and grittiness of tainted magic. Their world is similar to the world outside our window, but it’s grittier and moodier, cognizant of the idea that they experience the world differently from the reader.

The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage: Second Lives #4 does not disappoint. Readers who have been following this miniseries will be satisfied with both the story itself and the beautiful depictions of their world. Our heroes find a resolution to the immediate threat, but not without some unexpected events. There is a sense of closure and a message of the hope that love brings, along with a hint that something wicked this way may come.

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