Review: Mirror #2

Mirror is a flawed comic, but it's a richly detailed, lovingly crafted, and generally worthwhile flawed comic. I found, in reading Mirror #2, that I didn't have any problem picking out a variety of problems, some of which I'll get into, but I never once thought about putting it down. There's a warm, intelligent creativity in what Rios and Lim are doing that makes the book compelling even when the structure gets a bit knotted up in itself. And sadly, the structural choices underlying Mirror are a bit of a chore as Rios' script seems to borrow a bit from her collaboration with Pretty Deadly, another beautiful book that tended to drift into incomprehensibility. For example, issue two starts with a flashback, but not to the same period as issue one's flashback, picking up instead as Sena, now a rebel warrior, reunites with her onetime friend to battle the human oppressors. This is then revealed to be a story told by Zun to the sphinx (which feels like a forced means of tying to the first issue), before the issue spends the rest of its time back in the flashback.

Mirror-#2-1Similarly, the layouts which, despite an undeniable beauty, are sometimes creative at the cost of being readable. While the issue mostly works in the same elegant fashion as the first, there are a couple of points where I was yanked out of the story by an inability to tell precisely what I was looking at (always a risk in sequences which involved magical powers to begin with). One battle sequence is laid out almost like a stained glass, with onlookers looking at three giant images of magical animals battling soldiers. It's a beautiful moment to be sure, but a more traditional battle scene likely would have been a better storytelling tool.

But outside these problems, which are by any reckoning, only on the surface, the book continues to be an admirable addition to Image's growing fantasy library. The larger plot of the book is starting to take shape, as well as surprising sci-fi element that I would love to see explored (a crystal engine and magical asteroid both feel like they contain the leftover DNA of Brandon Graham's 8house). In general, I am always impressed by a genre story's ability to be specific instead of working in generalities and clichés. Two issues in, Mirror is clearly telling the story of a very detailed world with its own set of characters, not a traditional swords and sorcery land populated by animated tropes.

This is specifically notable in how, despite the literal animal nature of so many of the characters, there's a deep humanity to each individual. The villains, whose motivations are not yet clear, feel like conflicted, intelligent people instead of mustache twirling monsters. Similarly, the good characters are conflicted, sometimes violent damaged souls who clearly crave some sort of peace they likely won't ever see. Every writer strives to bring dimension to their characters, but it's surprisingly rare to see it done as well as it is here.

And this specificity extends down the line into the books visuals and more minor characters as well. This issue sees the introduction of Aldeberan, the magician's hulking bull of a son (literally). While he could be a generic angry bruiser, Aldeberan comes off as a shy, gentle aristocrat's son with some deep questions about his own nature that will likely become fascinating as time goes on. Aiding Rios script touches along the way is Hwei Lim who likely couldn't draw something to look boring or generic if she wanted to. As it is, Lim dazzles with some beautiful landscapes, clothing, and character designs who simplicity often belies a visual sophistication.

While the initial wonder that prompted me to praise the first issue so highly has worn off a little, I would be surprised if Mirror didn't improve as it went along. Once some of the distractions fade away and the plot begins to take a clear shape, there will be a lot of momentum and emotion propelling the story forwards.

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Mirror #2 Writerr: Emma Rios Artist: Hwei Lim Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 3/23/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital