The Second Life of Doctor Mirage

Perhaps the most under-rated and overlooked of all Valiant Comics, The Second Life of Doctor Mirage stood out within the last batch of original Valiant heroes ( before the whole Acclaim debacle ) thanks to its elegant premise: how love persists even through the intangible.

Written by Valiant founder Bob Layton and beautifully illustrated by the young Bernard Chang, Mirage debuted in 1993 at the height of Valiant's popularity, and in the midst of the unchecked expansion that can be considered ultimately responsible for the publisher's downfall. The series was cancelled after a mere 18 issues in 1995, around the time that Acclaim Entertainment acquired the comic book line. Sales were neither good nor bad, but evidently not good enough for the video game businessmen who took over.

The protagonist is Dr. Hwen Fong, along with his young wife Carmen, both professional parapsychologists. While the occupation itself would have made an entertaining comic book, the investigation of paranormal activity and supernatural mystery is only a launching point for the first issue of Doctor Mirage. The tale begins as Hwen and his capoeira-wielding Brazilian wife are hired to investigate when a morgue receives two corpses who still exhibit normal, healthy vital signs, despite their obvious necrosis. As they examine the bodies, the dead men spring to life and attack them, zombie-style. The kick-ass Carmen defeats the undead minions and they reveal the name of their master: Darque.

Now that name doesn't mean much to those of you who have never read Valiant comics, as it didn't ring a bell for Hwen and Carmen at the time, but let's just say that this ruthless albino necromancer is one evil motherfucker, and often directly or indirectly responsible for all the bad stuff happening around the Valiant universe. In particular, Darque had this perpetual confrontation with the Louisiana vigilante Shadowman, who would eventually sacrifice himself to rid the world of the villain ( or so we gathered from some glimpses of the future ). Anyway, so the young couple sets out in search of this Darque character, unaware of the trouble that implies.

They track him by the necromantic energy readings he tends to leave in his wake, all the way to a temple in Ladakh, Tibet ( where Obadiah Archer received his martial arts training... but that's another story ). As they arrive at the temple, the two discover all the monks dead, and Darque in the midst of some occult ritual. Annoyed by the intrusion, Darque proceeds to rip the life force out of Hwen, but then something unforseen happens: as the good doctor vanishes into non-existence, Carmen's love for her husband anchors him to reality, and Hwen reappears ( hence "the Second Life of Doctor Mirage" ). However, he is transformed by the experience and is no long corporeal, but an energy being composed of positively charged necromantic energy. Or, to put it simply, a ghost.

So Darque sends a small legion of undead monks after but them, but Hwen's newfound abilities prove to be more than a match for anything the necromancer can throw at him. They agree to a truce, and the young couple resumes their normal lives, as best they can. So begins the real adventure, as Hwen and Carmen learn to deal with the fact that he has no physical form, which tends to put a large strain on their marriage ( because he is unable to touch her ), and other aspects of their lives ( a very funny episode features Hwen's asian mother unexpectedly dropping in ). The pair resumes their work in investigating the paranormal, as Hwen slowly learns to develop the powers he acquired in the transformation.

Mirage plays a large part in the giant cross-over "the Chaos Effect", fulfilling the prophecy made earlier by Darque's sister Sandria, who revealed that Hwen is "the one" - as the dimensional rift threatening the Earth expands, leaking necromantic energy, doctor Mirage is the only one who can protect Solar and close the rift.

Since the plug was pulled on the series before any real resolution, the fate of Doctor Mirage remains a mystery.


sources: personal recollection, and a little wikipedia.

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