Written by: Paul Levitz
Art by: Sonny Liew
Publisher: DC Comics
So far, Doctor Fate has been a fun new series, but not without its flaws. The newest issues continues much in the same trend as the first two, however by this point the flaws have become slightly more apparent which has let to a frustrating albiet enjoyable experience.
I realised this issue that the main problem with the series is the absolute passiveness of Khalid as a main character. I understand that he’s still figuring out his powers and this is all part of his origin, but his main reactions seem to mostly consist of “huh, what, that’s weird” which makes it hard to get involved in his super heroics. The opening of the comic feels so strange, as he’s describing what should be cataclysmic events with almost a cool sense of detachment, as if he doesn’t care at all about the events happening. Most of the time it’s the helmet of Nabu itself dragging Khalid through the action scenes, and while it could make for an interesting Blue Beetle type approach to the series, Nabu doesn’t do much except be a helmet. There’s a moment where he starts to explain stuff to Khalid, making me think we’d move the story somewhere, but then it remains silent the rest of the issue. I felt just as frustrated as Khalid himself. It’s only really towards the end of the issue that Khalid brings some emotion to the events as he starts to feel the pressure of the task that he’s been forced in to, I wish there were more of this as most of the time he feels so passive and makes it hard to care about the events.
This passive superheroing feels even more unfitting when you see scenes of Khalid with his family that showcase him having a lot of personality and being an enjoyable character. He seems a bit like a more sarcastic Peter Parker, having family troubles (like trying to be set up with a girl despite having a girlfriend) but instead of wallowing in self hate, he wants to get on with life and usually has some sort or put-down or comment for everything. It makes him feel quite different from other young heroes and I really like all that stuff and could relate to him. His family in general are quite a great supporting cast, I actually was very invested in his dad’s newfound blindness, not only because it was interesting in and of itself as I like the characters, but also because it seemed to foreshadow some really cool and creepy magic stuff.
In fact, this would be my main problem with the series; there’s lots of really cool mystic stuff being built up, which combines with a really quite grounded approach to the material, but the Doctor Fate stuff doesn’t really act as a good bridge between the two. It feels like they’re meant to complement each other, shown in the gorgeously stylised art of Sonny Liew switching from a grey, mundane style to a trippier, colourful approach when Nabu enters the scene, but it isn’t balanced well. Anytime Khalid starts using his powers it feels so detached from what we’ve been reading as he’s just being pulled through the story rather than feeling any sort of involvement. I want to stress that this is a series I do enjoy, I think it has some cool ideas and I applaud any mainstream superhero book that attempts a new style, but I think the series needs to balance its ideas better.
The grounded family drama is good, the creepy mystic stuff is good, but there needs to be a better bridge between it. The series needs to capitalize on its ability to be charming and funny in order to make the series more enjoyable. Right now, there’s a lot to like about Doctor Fate, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts.