The first five issues of Image’s series, Mirror, has been collected into the a new volume; a fantasy tale with sci-fi elements, Mirror tells the story of a group of mage-scientists from Synchronia that arrive on a small asteroid in order to unlock its secrets. Soon after, the animals they have brought with them begin to gain human-like intelligence. Thinking this evolution holds the key to the asteroid’s mysterious power, the mages try and replicate the feat in their own labs. Soon enough it’s man vs. animal.
Mirror: The Mountain (Image Comics)
Mirror‘s narrative plays out at a methodical pace. Ivan, a mage-scientist in training, and Sena, evolved from a dog into a more human-like being, are our first introduction to the world. Writer Emma Rios quickly populates this world with characters, both human and animal, whose stories are told through jumps forward and backwards in time. There isn’t any hand-holding at the beginning and it may take a while for some readers to distinguish each character’s relationship to one another and their place in the story. However, Rios does a great job making each character feel necessary and not simply a prop to bounce dialogue off of. I initially thought of Ivan and Sena as the main characters, but the way Rios develops others that at first seemed minor, like the minotaur Aldebaran, made me rethink that position, as important parts of the narrative are played out without either of the former present.
The story is heady stuff, with themes of love, family, bigotry and self-identity throughout. However, I didn’t find it so overly ambiguous that I was left feeling I had missed or couldn’t understand something. What Rios has accomplished is harder than it looks, as many writers who try to make their readers “think” simply leave the plot so open ended that it tumbles into confusion. I think that may be the reason for the deliberately slow pace and introduction of details, which allows the reader a chance to come up to speed slowly and get immersed in the world and characters so that the questions it raises come more organically, rather than having a character on a soapbox shouting out ideas and viewpoints they didn’t earn.
I might have a different opinion had I been trying to follow Mirror in monthly chunks, trying to remember what happened last issue each time a new one came out; however, I think Rios had a definite roadmap in mind for these first few issues; where it was headed and where it would end up. You never get the feeling she was marking time, using filler until the next important plot point was supposed to appear. Instead, it was a clever division into five issues, of a longer story, already written.
Artist Hwei Lim has done a magnificent job setting the visuals apart from other comics. It looks as if each page was done in a light pallet of watercolors, with lots of white around the edges that really soften each image. His painterly style really draws the eye to the characters, as background landscapes and objects are sometimes less focused and detailed. The splash pages really stand out in this watercolor style, so much so that I would spend a few moments on each one, just to enjoy the visuals and try to put my finger on what I liked about it. Usually the art style helped set a mood with the look of each panel or page. In particular, one page done in mostly blue, with an older Sena standing by a lakeshore at night as she discovers the death of someone she cared for, absolutely accentuated the tone of the moment.
Is It Good?
I thought Mirror: The Mountain was great. I could see how some might be turned off by the slow-burn narrative and how the story jumps around in time, introducing new characters, and then reintroducing others whose relationships have changed towards one another depending on what year it is taking place; in that regard, having the entire story arc together in one volume is my recommendation if you’d like to read it. The art and writing blend for a really unique experience that impressed me in both what its trying to do and what succeeded on the actual page.