Book Review: Doctor Fate Vol 4

Hi everyone! I hope you all are staying safe (and inside if possible) during these troubling times. The world might be changing, but my love for classic literature has remained just as robust. With some of the extra time available, I’ve been reading more than usual. I’ve read many more books, but I just wanted to review a few I thought were worthy of sharing here over the next few posts. In this post, I’ll review fourth volume of the Doctor Fate comic series, created by Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew.

“What? This isn’t a classic! It’s a person in a helmet with no nose holes!”

– My mother

That may be true, but I’ve spent a significant amount of time reading comics, and, since this series was the first I read, I chose to blog about it. I didn’t intend to have this be the first comic series I got into. I accidentally stumbled upon it while browsing through an online catalog of adventure books. At first, I was apprehensive. For those of you who don’t know, Doctor Fate is a sorcerer with a bright blue leotard and a giant gold mask. Unsurprisingly, he’s not very mainstream. Doctor Fate has yet to appear in the DC Extended Universe, though he is slated to make his presence known in the upcoming Black Adam movie. I chose to read it anyway to pass the time. This Doctor Fate is either the fifth or sixth incarnation of the character, though he has a completely different backstory. Khalid Nassour is an Egyptian American medical student who stumbles upon the Doctor Fate helmet in a museum. After being urged to wear the helm by Bast, the Egyptian cat god, he acquires a laundry list of mystical powers and is tasked to “heal the world.” He contends with Egyptian demons, the ghost of Julius Caesar, and even Anubis, the deliverer of souls, who all plan to tear the Earth to shreds. But his challenges don’t stop there. He’s also a medical student and has to balance his busy class schedule with his superhero obligations. Now I’ll be the first to admit that the plot isn’t exceptional. Anubis was a lackluster villain who was frequently outclassed in unrealistic ways by Khalid. Julius Caesar was a bit much too. However, the artwork and some of the thematic elements make it worth the read. I’m not an art guy, but I was thoroughly impressed by the cover art for the 4th issue. The fascination of Anubis’s lackeys as they dissected the kind of dead but also living body of Khalid was perfectly captured in their gleaming eyes. Thematically, the series tends to contain motifs that don’t cohere with the general superhero trend. This iteration of Doctor Fate is a healer, not a warrior. I also loved the discussion of religion and ethnic background. Khalid’s father is a practicing Muslim while his mother is a fervent Christian. Seeing them transcend those religious barriers and coming together was really nice. There’s also another incident in which religious intolerance in the aftermath of a tragedy forces Khalid to rethink his mission. Finally, I liked the series because Khalid’s personality is super relatable. He’s a bit awkward and nerdy, but also has conviction and a desire to do “right.” He just doesn’t know what “right” is. I’m not sure where the series is at, but the saga of Khalid Nassour as Doctor Fate seems to have come to a close during Justice League Dark. If you only choose to read one book from my last few blog posts, I’d strongly recommend you read this one.

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