Friday, October 22, 2010
The Chicago Comics: "Madame Mirage"
And getting back to my round of overviews of what I bought in Chicago this year....
Paul Dini's 2007 six-issue mini-series from Top Cow... Madame Mirage.
First off, I've got to say, it's really, really REALLY hard to give a plot overview to this story without giving to much away. Suffice it to say, Madame Mirage takes place in a world rather like our own but where technology, genetics, drugs and advanced surgery have allowed some people to have what amounts to super powers.
At first many of these people use their powers to help people -- as they were originally meant to do -- but some turn to crime and evil. As the evil starts to outweigh the good the decision is made to ban all forms of "mega tech" and all who use them, have them implanted, or been altered through it. The good are thrown into prison alongside the evil and in fact many of the evil escape, move underground, and operate as shady mercenaries.
One of those who escaped has set up a dummy front company and taken a number of supervillains under his wing. Behind the front he hires out these powered individuals for kidnappings, assassinations, and other crimes.
Now, however, he finds himself under assault by a mysterious woman named Madame Mirage. She's definitely more than human -- a ghost, a magician, and utterly impossible -- and she's definitely not playing by the rule of law. Mirage is out for bloody justice -- the justice of an eye for an eye -- but why? And who is she really?
Dini is well known among comic book circles for his love of stage magic. With Madame Mirage he manages to combine that love with the darker, heavy-hitting, crime noir style as opposed to some of the lighter noir of guys like Raymond Chandler. He also, of course, mixes in superheroics, sci-fi, and a dash of the pulps. On top of all of that, in the middle of the series he makes a sudden reveal which does literally change everything you've seen going on and makes you go back and re-read the stories in this new light.
All that being said, the series is not without it's flaws. For one thing, there are several plots points which are mentioned but then never end up going anywhere or being mentioned again. This might be forgivable except for the fact that these are really fascinating, complex ideas and ones that would seem to possibly have lasting consequences but then they are ignored. I had thought that perhaps Dini might address them in a follow-up mini-series but the original six-issue series has a pretty conclusive ending to it leaving little wiggle room for a sequel.
For another thing... I'm, personally, not that crazy about Kenneth Rocafort's art. The line work is somewhat 'scratchy' and all of the female characters are pretty hypersexualized. There is a reason for it in Mirage's case but not so much in the case of many of the other characters. The scratchy line work makes the art seem... well.... I'm just going to say it... it looks sloppy. I really feel that Dini's story would have worked a bit better with a more crisp, clean style buttressed perhaps with a darker color palette and heavy inks. Everything here just looks fuzzy and slightly out of focus in most cases.
Taken as a whole, though, if you like noir, particularly the sub-genre of crime noir then Madame Mirage is an excellent new twist on an old story and Dini adds something new to the comic book universe.