Doctor Fate #2. Paul Levitz & Sonny Liew- Storytellers. Lee Loughridge- Colorist.
Often with a new launch of titles a group of comics can be defined in terms of tone or theme. Sometimes, a line will all have a homogenous look or feel. When the New 52 launched nearly four years ago, there were different families of books, each offering something slightly different. With DC YOU, DC Comics is trying to do that on a title-to-title basis offering diverse looks, themes and creators that can read and appear vastly different than the book on the shelf right next to it. With Doctor Fate Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew are certainly exploring a unique genre. In the first few issues Doctor Fate is a book about discovery. The main character Khalid Nassour is discovering he’s been chosen by an ancient Egyptian deity to preserve the fate on mankind. As readers we are discovering these things right along with Khalid as we are introduced to the world on a mystical level as described in Egyptian mythology.
The story picks up from last issues cliffhanger as Khalid is mysteriously able to here his father calling for help from miles away. Khalid utilizes his newfound powers to fly to his father’s cab which has been crushed under a tree that has fallen in the storm. He gets his father out, but is heckled by Anubis. Khalid sets off to get his dad medical attention, but is sidetracked by a plane that’s been hit by lightning. He barely gets the plane down safely and continues on to find an ambulance that will take his dad to the hospital. It turns out his dad has been temporarily blinded. Khalid, his mostly girlfriend Shaya and his mom go home so he can get some rest before his first day of Medical School. When Khalid is alone in his room and Shaya has returned to the dorms, Nabu, priest of Thoth visits him via the Doctor Fate’s helmet to educate him on his new responsibilities. Despite Khalid’s protestation, Thoth is adamant about Khalid’s selection by the goddess Bastet. He is interrupted by Kkalid’s mother’s knock at the door. She tells him she’s going back to the hospital to be with Khalid’s father. After she leaves, Khalid hears the baying of Anubis’s hounds in the street and the helmet begins to glow. The helmet makes it clear that Khalid must do these things, and we infer that this is Khalid’s fate. Khalid discovers one final thing after his encounter with the hounds- his wounds heal almost instantaneously.
The mystical genre of the book is certainly one of the strong points. It’s not simply a book rooted in magic, but rather utilizing a whole spiritual/mystical plane of existence. There’s not really another book out there doing this. The path of discovery approach to the story is working. It’s all new to the reader, but since it’s new to Khalid it’s easy to follow and learn with him. Levitz is able to get a lot of information in the issue as well and it really clarifies Khalid’s situation that was somewhat muddy last issue. Additionally, it’s clear that Levitz is playing with the idea of irony in Khalid training to be a doctor but already being Doctor Fate. It almost feels as if his medical path will be fraught with more difficulty than his mystical one. It’s not heavy handed and feels quite subtle.
I think the biggest turn off for readers could be the quirkyness in art style and genre blending. It’s a mixture of mystical, coming of age and modern youth slice of life. It doesn’t feel like any other book. This could be troubling for some as it is a positive for others.
Doctor Fate #2 moves the plot along with some significant moments and it expands the mystical/ mythological elements in the story. It doesn’t quite explode yet, but it certainly feels as if it will soon.