Doctor Fate #12. Paul Levitz & Sonny Liew- Storytellers, Lee Loughridge- Colorist.
Two things stand out about this issue and the first year of this series. The first is the way in which Levitz and Liew told a story that was huge in so many ways, but so intimate in others. At times, it didn’t feel like it was working. Clearly, there was a lot of thought put into the relationships between the characters and how they would affect Khalid on his journey to keep the mantle of Doctor Fate. The second is an appearance that would’ve changed the complexion from the inception of the series is he had shown up in the first or second issue. However, holding off allowed two things to happen: 1. Khalid was able to face his first test unassisted and figure some things out on his own. 2. Kent Nelson’s appearance opens up a whole bunch of questions that couldn’t possibly have been answered a year ago.
Khalid is about to get thrown out of Medical School. It wouldn’t be the first time super-hero’s costumed identity destroyed his personal life, ever read Spider-Man? However, as his review is transpiring, the Dean has a sudden heart attack! (Cue the Monty Python music) This turns out to be not only Khalid’s opportunity to prove his worth, but also an opportunity to use what he’s learned as Fate, confront Anubis a second time, and prove to Bastet he is a worthy selection. This second trial against Anubis results in Khalid retrieving the Ba (soul) of the Dean and returning it to the Dean’s body. It saves Khalid from being expelled though not without a severe reprimand from Dr. Agrawal.
Afterward, Shaya couldn’t be happier with the news that Khalid is a hero and still in school so that they will become doctors together. Khalid’s dad, aware of Khalid’s role as Doctor Fate has to be cagey with Akila. She wants Khalid to be so much more, but Mr. Nassour can’t possibly explain how he is! When Khalid arrives home, his mother’s uncle is visiting, Khalid’s great uncle- Kent Nelson, the original Doctor Fate. This is where things get really interesting.
So far, Levitz and Liew have wrapped up all the loose ends from the first issue. Launched as part of the DCYOU initiative a year ago, Doctor Fate presented a really different visual look. At the same time it added a diverse set of characters to a long time DC Character. All of these are laudable efforts. This series has been uneven at times. I believe reading it in one sitting will be a treat for many. The scene on the last page of this issue opens up the door for so much more, though and asks one huge question: On what Earth does this book take place? The appearance of a classic looking Kent Nelson seems to indicate that it is neither the main DC Earth nor Earth 2. The implication is that Kent was previously Doctor Fate. It seems to lead directly into DC Universe: Rebirth. At least the rumors about a young original JSA returning seem to fit right into what’s going on in this book.
Things really came together this issue. It felt like the previous 11 issues were devised with a plan. It might be the quintessential slow burn. With the final revelation, some of the ambiguity makes a little more sense. Some of the questions that remained couldn’t have been answered until now. The questions posed seem to give life to the future of this series.
The biggest negative about this issue is that it might be the only one you really need to read. Read this issue and if you are really intrigued about how we got to this point, go get the others. This is clearly a jumping on point.
There are many comics that have revelatory moments and feature turning points. This is one of those books. It actually questions how long DC has had Rebirth in mind. It all seems to fit and mesh in this issue, one week before Rebirth. For any fan of the original Earth-Two and Ken Nelson, this is a real treat and for the rest a fitting conclusion to the first year of Doctor Fate.