Review: Doctor Fate #16

[Editor’s note: This review may contain spoilers.]

Writer: Paul Levitz
Artist: Sonny Liew

Summary
It’s an early morning in New York City, but the sun hasn’t risen. While some believe it’s just bad weather to blame, Khalid Nassour can sense the presence of magical energy. Khalid uses a trick taught to him by his uncle, Kent Nelson, to momentarily freeze time while he dons the helmet of Nabu to become Doctor Fate.

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Meanwhile, Kent, in costume as the original Doctor Fate, is investigating. Kent locates the root of the trouble. The Egyptian god Osiris walks the Earth. Apparently Osiris is searching for “the one” and momentarily believes that Kent might be that one. However, after he defeats Kent and examines Kent’s helmet, he realizes it is not the real helmet, but a facsimile. Osiris seeks the current owner of the helmet – Khalid.

The story then cuts to Kent’s tower in Salem, where Kent’s cat Dinah is summoned to serve as avatar for Bastet, the Egyptian goddess of cats.

Next we see Khalid’s parents at home, worried about their son. Khalid’s mother is worried that the end of times is upon them, while Khalid’s father tries to reassure her. She also reveals that she knows about Khalid’s secret activities as the new Doctor Fate.

Khalid arrives home, but before he can calm down his mother, Osiris tears the wall off the house, demanding that Khalid face his judgment for defying his servant Anubis.

Khalid dons the helmet of Fate and attempts to fight Osiris, but is Osiris immediately overpowers him and places him on the scales he uses to judge human souls.

Then Bastet arrives and tells Osiris that Anubis has lied to Osiris. That Anubis had overstepped his authority. With Bastet is other representatives of Khalid’s religious background: Christian, Muslim, and Egyptian. They agree with Bastet’s choice of Khalid as champion for humankind.

Osiris still demands that he must make his judgment on Khalid, and determines for himself that Khalid is worthy to live.

Then Osiris departs, returning the sun to the sky. Khalid’s parents thank their God, and Khalid’s benefactors all state their approval, and Kent realizes that he may actually be up to facing his destiny as Doctor Fate.

Positives
This issue brings together a theme that has run through this title since it started. Khalid is influenced by three different religious traditions, his mother’s Christian background, his father’s Muslim beliefs, and the ancient Egyptian pantheon that underpins the Doctor Fate mythos. Instead of these three ideologies being at odd with each other, they all come together to give their approval of Khalid as champion of humanity.

Also, it is good to see that Khalid is starting to catch on to how to control the powers he has as Doctor Fate. This is due to his having Kent Nelson, the original Doctor Fate as a mentor. It will be interesting if we get a chance to see some of Kent’s history in the future.

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Related to this, there was a very noteworthy thing mentioned by Kent this issue. Many are combing through the DC Rebirth issues for hints about DC’s secret forgotten history, but they also should be paying attention to DC’s other titles. Kent mentions having been “with the Justice Society.” Between this and the appearance of Johnny Thunder in the DC Universe: Rebirth special, it seems that some form of the JSA is going to be returned to DC canon.

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Negatives
This issue reads very much like a final issue, other sites are calling it the final issue, and even DC’s official solicit refers to it as “climactic concluding chapter.” However, DC has solicited two more issues, with #18 listed as the actual final issue. My guess is that this was intended to be the final issue, but that DC gave the creators a couple more issues to finish up. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it seems to have caused some unnecessary confusion. Also, with such a clearly positive ending, it may difficult to not make the next two issues seem like an anticlimax.

Verdict
This was a great issue that cements Khalid’s place in the DC Universe as Doctor Fate. If it had been the final issue, it would have served as a fine send off.

4outof5

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Derek McNeil

I have been an avid reader of DC Comics since the early 70s. My earliest exposure was to Batman and Superman comics, Batman (Adam West) reruns, and watching the Super-Friends every Saturday morning.