Review: Doctor Fate #17

[Editor’s note: Thank you for your patience waiting for this review while we updated our website host. This review may contain spoilers.]

Writer: Paul Levitz
Artist: Brendan McCarthy

Summary
Khalid Nassour is has been talked into attending a peace rally with his friend Akila at the Freedom Tower Plaza, when he would rather be preparing for his medical school exams. Taking a break at the pool of water in the plaza, Khalid notices strange burning threads of light rising from the water that give off a disturbing smell. He then notices that smaller threads are attached to each of the people present at the rally, even his friend Akila. The thread touching her starts to burn, and giving off the same smell.

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Khalid asks Nabu if the smell means that Akila will die, to which Nabu replies, “Mortals are fated to die, Khalid. Anubis waits for you all.” Khalid insists that if he can see this happening, he should be able to prevent it, so he dons the Helmet of Thoth, transforming into Doctor Fate.

Khalid attempts to stop the thread from burning, but finds himself transported to strange realm. He follows the thread back to its source, and along the way he encounters a number of spider-like creatures that attempt to ensnare him. Khalid becomes immaterial to prevent this, but this also causes him to lose his hold on Akila’s thread.

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Khalid wonders why he feels compelled to find the thread and Nabu explains that is because it is the thread of her life and it is burning away. Khalid continues following the threads to their source, where he finds a giant caterpillar-like being named Clothorus who tends a giant forge. Clothorus desires to burn Khalid and the Helmet of Thoth in her forge and ensnared Khalid with the “Thread of Fate.”

Khalid manages to break the Thread of Fate and finds himself transported somewhere else. He sees machines building an Egyptian-style pyramid, and then encounters a Sphinx. When Khalid asks how to save Akila, the Sphinx tells him, “If you would defeat the mother, you must embrace her and all of her children.” As Khalid expresses his displeasure at getting a riddle instead of a direct answer, he finds himself ensnared again, but by who or what is not shown.

Positives
Well, it’s great to see another issue, especially since the previous issue seemed very much like a finale in tone, and a number of online sources referred to it as the final issue. However, this is somewhat diminished by the fact that the next issue (#18) is the actual series finale.

It’s also clear that Khalid has grown somewhat into his Fate. He seems to be better able now to fend for himself than having to beg Nabu for instructions on how to accomplish the tasks he’s faced with. Amusingly, Khalid notes that Nabu actually gives him a useful bit guidance for once.

Negatives
I have an uneasiness that’s not a negative in this issue so much, as with the future of Khalid as a character. Kent Nelson (who is not present in this issue) has been recently reintroduced, and the Rebirth storyline has dropped hints about the return of the JSA in general. This leads me to wonder what Khalid’s future is if Rebirth restores Kent Nelson to the role. Doctor Fate isn’t a Rebirth title, but rather one of the few remaining holdover titles from the New 52 era. Some of the New 52 titles ended by clearing the way for the Rebirth continuity’s return to a more recognizable status quo – for example, Batman Beyond brought back Terry McGinnis and had Tim Drake vanish to clear room for Terry to resume the role of Batman in the Rebirth reboot of the title. My fear is that Khalid may be due to die or retire from the role of Doctor Fate. Hopefully, this is unfounded. After all, if we can have two Flashes in Rebirth, why not two Doctor Fates?

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Verdict
This is an engaging story, and leaves me waiting to see how it’s resolved next issue. Also, I will be eagerly waiting to see how Khalid’s status quo will be left as he moves towards the Rebirth era.

3.5outof5

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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.