Friday, April 27, 2018


Created and Written by: Paul Dini | Art by: Kenneth Rocafort
Colors by: Imaginary Friends Studios with Kenneth Rocafort & Blond on issue 1
Letters by: Troy Peteri | Edited by: Rob Levin

This one has been on my to-read list for about a decade. I first saw some promo art, or maybe covers, for Madame Mirage not long after she was created in 2007. She looked to be right up my alley -- a pulp-style heroine with an enormous rack, apparently wreaking vigilante justice in the thirties or forties, conceived by one of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES' best writers. I decided to pick up the trade paperback whenever it came out. I think I even ordered it at one point, but it was back-ordered or something and it wound up getting canceled.

Then, at some point, I learned that the series was not, as the promos had made me think, set in the past, but rather in the future -- that the series was basically sort of a sci-fi pulp thing. That revelation dampened my enthusiasm somewhat, and MADAME MIRAGE dropped down my shopping list, relegated to "maybe someday..."

Then, as I mentioned a couple weeks back, last year Comixology had a Top Cow sale and MADAME MIRAGE was one of the offerings. I decided someday had arrived, picked up the six issues, and here we are.

The story, while not set in the past, is also not set in the future -- it seems to take place in the present day, but in a version of our world where technology is significantly more advanced than anything we have now. Backstory is provided in issue 1, explaining that superhumans began to appear around the beginning of the twenty-first century, powered by cybernetics and technology -- but of course there were both heroes and villains, and eventually the government outlawed super-activity entirely. Most of the heroes were killed or incarcerated, while a large number of the villains parlayed their power into legitimate corporate fronts.

This leads us to Madame Mirage, a tech-powered vigilante hunting down and killing the various villains who now live comfortably within the law. As the story progresses, we learn that Mirage is a young woman named Angela, operating with the assistance of her brilliant sister, Harper. Together they wreak havoc across Los Angeles, wiping out bad guys in colorful and, occasionally, excessively violent ways. As the story moves along, the reason for their vendetta is revealed, as is an unexpected secret about the pair (which, even more unexpectedly and in defiance of conventional storytelling techniques, Dini reveals halfway through the series rather than saving to use as part of the final issue's denouement).

(If it seems like I'm being vague -- I am. The story has a bit of a mystery element, and while I will often spoil endings on things I look at here, I do try not to totally ruin bigger reveals, especially on more recent material -- except in the cases of the Monday "in-depth" single-issue reviews.)

Overall, my impression of MADAME MIRAGE is, well... "meh." It's not terrible, but I'd be hard-pressed to call it especially good either. I do really like the artwork by Kenneth Rocafort, but Dini's universe here feels kind of ill-fleshed out, even in spite of the big backstory he trickles out. Most of the villains Mirage confronts are pretty lame, too. The placement of the big reveal mid-story instead of at the end robs the finale of what could've been a really dramatic moment. And while the reveal is a bit of a shocker, it doesn't make up for the story's other shortcomings.

But I think if I were to boil my dissatisfaction all the way down, it really comes to what I said up top -- this story isn't what I originally thought it would be. Mind you, that's not on Paul Dini and Kenneth Rocafort. I'm sure Dini always intended this to be a futuristic cyber-pulp thing. It's just not what I wanted it to be, and that's fine. I might have overlooked some of my issues if the story were a legitimate pulp set during the thirties/forties. Since it's not, the shortcomings are probably magnified in my eyes.

Though, that said, the fact that there's never been any more Madame Mirage material since this series was published in 2007 probably indicates that the world wasn't exactly clamoring for a sequel -- so maybe I'm not alone in my disappointment.


  1. This sounds like Dini really didn't have any idea WHAT he wanted it to be, to be honest with you. I've seen some of the artwork before and thought it was a 30's pulp story too. Certainly didn't think it was in any way a story about superhumans. It feels like no element of it was really worked out or thought through, just a bunch of cool images and ideas stuck together by the rule of cool. Seems like it has an identity crisis, story wise. Shame, the art always looked neat, and Dini is generally reliable.

    1. Good thought; it's possible Dini had several ideas and wasn't sure what to run with, so he just did a mashup. But whatever the case, it didn't turn out great. It's annoying too, because I wanted to like the series based on my ill-informed imaginings of what it was!