Monday, August 11, 2003

Dr. Fate #1 - A Review

Written by: Christopher Golden
Penciled by: Don Kramer
Inked by: Prentis Rollins
Colored by: John Kalisz
Lettered by: Kurt Hathaway
Editor: Peter Tomasi
Publisher: DC Comics

I was rather nervous when I first looked at this book. The cover art, depicting DC Comics most powerful magician, looks like it was inked and colored with Magic Marker. Still, the adage about how you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover proved most accurate in the case of Dr. Fate.

I’m not familiar with Christopher Golden as a writer of comic books but I am familiar with his work as a novelist and have enjoyed all of his books that I have read. And I have it on the authority of a friend who is a big fan of “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” that his books based on the series are the best. I mention this, because that is what the series and this opening issue remind me of… but in a good way.

In Golden’s introductory text, we discover that the city of Salem is a nexus of dark magical powers but most of those in the city are unaware of the battles between order and chaos that occur on a near daily basis, thanks to the efforts of one hero: our esteemed Doctor. But this is the only battle of supernatural forces that we see in the entire book, so those expecting a story full of cape-waving and dialogue along the lines of “Zounds! The dread Demons of Dorkmammu are arising again. I must call upon the powers of the Terrific Talisman of Tal-Ah-Has-Iee if I am to survive this, my greatest battle!” will be greatly disappointed.

The rest of us will be treated to our introduction to several interesting characters. Aside from Hector Hall (who we should all know from the pages of JSA) and Nabu (who has materialized as an Obi-Wan ghost inside Fate’s Tower), we are introduced to…

• Professor Boiling and his students Anita and Tom; practicing Wiccans, who are observing Fate for reasons as of yet unexplained.
• Caitlin, a waitress at a coffee shop, who has a crush on Hector.
• Justin, Caitlin’s stalker ex-boyfriend
• Jenny, Caitlin’s co-worker
• The proprietor of the “Wicked Wicks” candles and spells shop, who does little more than give Hector a dirty look as he walks past her shop.
• Justin Gilder; a thief of high skill, recruited to steal a magical helmet from a Mr. Fenton for an old lady in New York City.

How does all this tie together? I can’t begin to say. But the characterization rings true and every character, despite only appearing for a few pages, is easily identifiable and memorable. This is helped by the excellent art Don Kramer. Kramer’s work is, as best as I can describe, as detailed as Frank Quitely but not nearly as dirty or as heavily inked. The colors are rich and vibrant, making this look every bit the DC book despite its Vertigoesque roots.

(Incidentally, you cameo spotters will not a number of Vertigo’s magical heroes in Fate’s scrying mirror at one point in the book. And someone who is no stranger to us magic fans makes it quite clear he doesn’t like being watched.)

All in all, it feels like Golden is building towards something with his opening arc. This issue is a little slow on action, but it looks very promising. And considering that we’ve sold the title out twice at my store in the four days since its release, it looks like there are a lot of people besides myself who are under the spell of this book.

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