Valiant has been slowly giving their entire line a makeover over the last few months – canceling some of their longer-running series and launching brand new #1s with all-new creative teams. Doctor Mirage is their latest new #1, written by Magdalene Visaggio with art by Nick Robles. Without the name recognition that X-O Manowar or Bloodshot may have had, this new series is a bit of a strange choice from Valiant. But Visaggio, Robles, Bellaire, and Sharpe treat this as a challenge rather than an impediment – one they are able to surpass with flying colors.
From the very first page, Doctor Mirage is vibrant, colorful, and expressive, with the first page turn evoking an incredibly powerful feeling of overwhelming loneliness. The entire first half of the issue continues this lonely feeling, with no one but Doctor Mirage appearing at all. The narration takes the form of a director behind the scenes dictating the paneling and acting of the characters, before revealing itself to be Doctor Mirage reminiscing about her days in showbiz to spice up her morning routine. “I never learned how to be alone,” she thinks, as she wanders her house that’s far too large for just one person. Visaggio and Robles do not pull any punches as Mirage walks through her house, as it becomes incredibly apparent both visually and through the narration that Shan Fong Mirage has recently lost the person she shared her entire life with. The loneliness and sadness that the writing and art both evoke are haunting, and immediately make Mirage a sympathetic and relatable character.
As the issue continues, Visaggio introduces the only other character in the book so far, a teenager named Grace Lugo. Mirage’s loneliness was portrayed beautifully in the first half of the issue, but the second half doesn’t skip a beat jumping from the establishment of the tone to immediately subverting it in order to really begin the plot. Grace explains the stakes and what is wrong with the world, but most importantly, provides Doctor Mirage with the hope that she will be able to see her husband again. To serve as a final hook, Grace offers a look into her world – where the art explodes in layout and color, giving a taste of what is to come before the issue ends with an offer to both Doctor Mirage and the readers: Grace stares directly at the reader as she asks, “So are you out? Or do you wanna come with me and see the parts of Hell even the Devil is scared to visit?”
The writing in this book is incredible from start to finish, and the art is every bit its equal – the whole issue is breathtakingly gorgeous from the very first page. Nick Robles hasn’t done a lot of work prior to this series, but it doesn’t show at all. The characters are gorgeous with unique and visually appealing designs, the panels are laid out in a fluid and perfectly paced manner, and the big magical splash pages are gorgeously Ditko-esque while still carrying Robles’ own unique style. Robles adds an incredible amount of emotion to the book, as both Mirage and Grace are expressive and so visibly human on every page. Bellaire’s colors are fantastic throughout as well, making the magical world of the dead bright and vibrant and wholly different from anything else in the book.
On a surface level, this book is easily comparable to the recent run of Mister Miracle at DC Comics by Tom King and Mitch Gerads. It focuses on someone in show business struggling through a very challenging time of personal strife, and hits on the theme of death quite strongly. But this comparison minimizes the originality and uniqueness of the book. With that being said, Visaggio and Roblesare are poised to deliver 2019’s Mister Miracle, having delivered an absolutely spectacular premiere issue to the series. For readers who want to get into the next modern classic on the ground floor, Doctor Mirage #1 is the issue to get.