Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review: Dr. Fate Countdown to Mystery

Cover
The mantle of Dr. Fate has been without a bearer for a long time. Fate's helmet has been thrown into space and now returns to choose the new Dr. Fate.

Fate dictated that the helmet finds his way to Dr. Kent V. Nelson, a distant relative of the original Dr. Fate. Kent Nelson is a good man that is in a truly low and bad moment of his life. Far are the days when he was a top psychiatrist, good father and husband with a nice house and a great life.

Dr. Fate Countdown to Mystery was supposed to mark the start of a new era in the Dr. Fate legacy. This story sees Kent Nelson coming to terms with his personal fate and the beginning of the journey to rebuild his life.


How is it?

When Fate's helmet return to earth we find the good Dr. Kent V. Nelson in session of "Rumble Bums", this is, fighting another bum for money. He looses and gets scammed out of his share by his friend, who coincidentally was the other bum on the "Rumble Bums" fight. This leaves him passed out on a dumpster in the rain.

Soon after he wakes up with the helmet by his side and puts it on for the first time. This puts him, and the reader, in a fast but enlightening journey through the recent history of the helmet. In doing this Steve Gerber ensures that this book is accessible for everyone, even for one that has never read a Dr. Fate story.

Kent has the misfortune to go against the Demon Negal in his first time wearing the helmet. Its only with beginners luck that Kent manages to defeat Negal, but its only temporarily. All of this turns out to be too much for the, already frail, Kent Nelson to handle and he drifts back into the bottle.

That leads to a series of events that bring together Kent and Inza (a throwback at the original Dr. Fate's wife). Inza is a struggling comic book creator (wink wink) and proud creator of the KillHead comics. She then takes on the unwilling role of the damsel in distress, and the rest is history.


The Helmet Whispers the Spells
Strange but familiar

Sadly Steve Gerber passed away and he didn't had the chance to end this book. DC Comics called on Gail Simone, Adam Beechen, Mark Evanier and Mark Waid to write an ending to the truly great story Steve Gerber started. As a result there are 4 possible endings to this story. Its a shame there isn't a cannon ending to this story, but this doesn't mean Countdown to Mystery isn't worth your time, because it is, very much so. The lack of a definitive ending only downgrades this book from stellar to fantastic.

The art is gorgeous. The expressiveness of the faces is great. You can almost taste Kent's misery in (almost) every shot. Justiniano and Walden Wong really bring Dr. Fate's costume to life. It is very simple, a full body blue suite and the usual yellow gloves, belt, amulet, helmet and cape, but its very powerful to see. When Dr. Fate appears he's both gracious and imposing.

The contrast between Kent's world, Negal's dimension and KillHead's story is fantastic. These are three very  different aspects of Countdown to Mystery that are characterized with subtle but powerful differences in the art style that represents each one.

Also worth mentioning is that the page composition is amazing  The panel layouts are unique for every page, creating great reading dynamic. I love the panel overlapping they used regularly.


Symbolism
Newbie Fate gets beaten















Verdict?

Dr. Fate Countdown to Mystery, even if unfinished, is a must read for any Dr. Fate or magic themed stories fan. I'm both so I love this one, so much so that I've read it more than a couple of times since I got it.

My preferences apart, be it for the fantastic art or the compelling story this book is worth your attention.



Publisher: DC Comics
Year: 2008
Pages: 160
Authors: Steve Gerber, Justiniano, Walden Wong, Adam Beechen, Mark Evanier, Mark Waid, Gail Simone
ISBN1401218407

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2 comments:

  1. Sounds like Gerber had a lot of good ideas (how often do we see homeless heroes?), too bad he didn't get to finish it. And it has a lot of good art (but I'm guessing a lot of people won't want to buy this because of Justiniano's scandal).

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  2. Hi Arion,

    I believe that the time of this book as passed. It wasn't finished as originally intendend, the Justiniano scandal and above All DC gave up on this version of Dr. Fate. Its a shame really because Gerber built the foundations for a great character with big story telling potential.

    Still Worth the read.

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