In Review: Doctor Fate #1

The visuals are killing my enjoyment of this book.

The covers: It was fate that there would be two covers to collect on this premiere issue. The Main cover is by interior artist Sonny Liew. It’s a very clever cover that represents the tile work that can be seen in some of New York’s subway tunnels. The new Doctor Fate has been done in tiles, with a spray-painted profile of Anubis atop it. Terrific visual and terrific coloring. This is very well done. The Variant cover is by Ibrahim Moustafa and it has a gigantic Fate helmet in profile in the rain with Khalid sitting on the top. Nice, moody cover that makes it seem that Khalid is not happy with his responsibility. Overall grades: Main A and Variant B+

The story: Overlooking the severely flooded Shore Parkway of Brooklyn is a jackal-like dog. It’s emaciated and has frightening bugged out eyes and ugly teeth. Strangest of all is the dog can speak. Jumping over and onto the cars it says the slaves to their machines will be swept from the soil. “The Maat will be restored and you…You shall all be slaves in my house of the dead.” A bolt of lightning strikes a distant building, stopping the creature’s gloating. It runs off in the direction of the impact. “The bitch — Bastet would not dare!” Within the Brookyln Museum a statue of Bastet is holding the helmet of Fate out to Khalid Nelson, telling him he must “Accept your fate.” Believing himself to be hallucinating, he smacks the helmet aside and runs out as the floating helmet calls his name. Once outside, his black cat Puck follows him. “Disappointing,” it says. “If his world is not to drown, he must accept his fate…We need a pharaoh. The boy will have to do.” As the cat makes its way through the flood it’s walking on water. Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew share storytelling credit for this issue. Using his cellphone, Khalid contacts his girlfriend and then speaks with his mom. His father is shown at his job and then the story returns to the reluctant hero, who has an incident at a subway stop. He does accept the helmet — and that’s no spoiler since he’s wearing it on the Main cover — and then his perception of the world changes just as a family member comes into major danger. This was a decent opening for a new Fate. I’m a huge fan of Fate from older DC comics, by Martin Pasko, Walter Simonson, J. M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen. This is the least powerful Fate I’ve encountered and the most passive Nabu in the helmet. This was unexpected, but I enjoyed the story. I liked the focus on the Egyptian background of the hero and Khalid is interesting. I have concerns about a teen wearing the helmet, but I’m a huge Levitz fan, so I’m going to be back next month. Overall grade: B+

The art: This is the first place where I have problems with this book. This is very stylized artwork and doesn’t seem suited for this character. Sonny Liew’s art seems very much an attempt by DC to copy the younger style used in Batgirl and employed in Black Canary. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t like the sketchy backgrounds which liter the book. The action sequence in the subway doesn’t have the emotional impact it could have had if the art had been more traditional. The cartoony nature of Liew’s art makes most of this book seem like a joke. It’s difficult to take the events seriously. Worst is when Khalid puts the helmet on. His legs and arms are ridiculously thin and gnarled. The visuals are just not working for me. Overall grade: D+

The colors: This is the other issue with this book. The color scheme, again, attempts to ape Batgirl and Black Canary. The colors are extremely dull and one note. It’s as if the book were being seen through a filter. When the helmet is put on the book explodes in the bright colors one would associate with the power of the helm, but then disappear, bringing the book into darkness once again. Lee Loughridge did this book, and he also colors Black Canary. I’d like to see this book colored more traditionally. Overall grade: D+

The letters: Here the book excels. Nick J. Napolitano has provided scene settings, god speech, sounds, dialogue, opening titles and credits, cellphone texts, yells, profanity, a radio broadcast, and Fate speech. This all looks good. Overall grade: A

The final line: The visuals are killing my enjoyment of this book. It’s only my faith in Paul Levitz that has me returning next month. I’m hoping for more Fate and less setup. Overall grade: C+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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