Story: Paul Levitz
Art: Sonny Liew
What They Say:
The emperor Julius Caesar has reached out from beyond the grave to resume his campaign against the Egyptian people, and only the young Doctor Fate can protect his ancestral homeland from the ghost of its former conqueror.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
With Doctor Fate looking like it’s going to survive past the Rebirth phase coming up for DC Comics, it’s definitely something that has me interested. I enjoyed the heck out of the first several issues of this series but it’s felt a bit listless with this arc and part of me, like many others, wondered if we were just killing time before it ended amid the Rebirth event. The current arc just hasn’t been compelling and even more so because of the shift in art design, done intentionally, which just turns it too comical in a way for me to really enjoy it. I’ve loved what Sonny Liew did early on in the book with the cast and setting but a lot of this just reminds me too much of the old Asterisk and Obelisk comics.
While we get a few moments touching on events elsewhere in the world of Khalid with his mother cleaning up and the cat making small changes to the dynamic, most of what we get is Khalid dealing with Caesar and his ghosts. With the General having gained control over them thanks to his apparent acquisition of one of the daggers used to kill Caesar, we get the hamfisted story design here that he’s doing it so that he can make Egypt great again like it was ages ago and he’s going to use Caesar to do it. It’s a kind of odd angle to take but basically there’s power in controlling Caesar and he’s going to grab onto power. There’s a good if obvious moment later in the book where Khalid chides him for this because he has a generation of people who want to change the country for the better incrementally rather than with massive shock changes and it’s interesting to see how this unfolds generationally depending on the reader.
A lot of what we get is almost like a Keystone Cops design to the rest of the book as Khalid, keeping quiet for the most part outside of his internal narration, is just trying to avoid the ghosts that seemingly have some power over him. It makes all of this a challenge for him but he’s been given so little instruction so far that it’s just awkward as hell because of what he has accomplished. It really just feels like he’s stumbling through things and lucking into saving the moment and that goes only so far before it just makes you cringe. And I’m really starting to cringe now with it. The dynamic between him and the helm/Nabu really is one that I get to a degree in what’s trying to be accomplished by after almost a year of reading the book you want something more. Especially since there’s a whole history (timeline depending) where the helm knows what works and what does. All this does is just make Khalid ineffectual and increasingly uninteresting since he’s also very disconnected from his real life, which was a huge draw early on.
Doctor Fate is a series that I’ll be sticking with through the Rebirth phase if only because of the solicitations and character it teases will be arriving. Right now, the series has felt like it’s lost its way after an overly long and drawn out first arc and a second arc that feels like it’s just meandering more than anything else. I really like the character of Khalid and all the new characters he’s brought with him, but the time as Doctor Fate has increasingly felt unfocused, uninteresting, and just cartoonish in the wrong way. The talents here are strong as seen by those early issues but the pacing of the book and what it wants to do has hit a real slump.
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: DC Comics via ComiXology
Release Date: April 20th, 2016