Doctor Fate #1
Writer: Paul Levitz, Sonny Liew
Artist: Sonny Liew, Ibrahim Moustafa
Colors: Lee Loughridge
Letters: Nick J. Napolitano
Doctor Fate created by Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman.
I like the idea of Doctor Fate more than I like the character itself. In reality he doesn't distinguish himself enough from all the other sorcerer supreme types. The DC Universe is awash with magicians from decades of continuity - lone wolf John Constantine (until he joined Justice League Dark) currently being the most popular character to come from their ranks. On the other hand, Fate is traditionally associated with the Justice Society of America. But I haven't been keeping up with that group, post Flashpoint, or know if they even still exist. So can veteran writer Paul Levitz infuse a more unique perspective onto such a staid figure? Not yet, judging from this issue.
The new Fate is a NYC resident and pre-med student Khalid Nassour, called on by ancient Egyptian goddess Bastet to fulfill his destiny by donning the magical helmet and fight against her evil counterpart Anubis. The latter seems intent on initiating a new worldwide deluge. Yeah, it's not a very original good vs. evil set-up for a superhero comic. And its use of mythology already feels old fashioned in our post-Neil Gaiman/Alan Moore era. Levitz is clearly attempting to make his characters sound more relevant and hip (and look, they're texting each other with their smartphones). But the for now, Khalid comes across as little more than a cipher for the reluctant hero.
If the dialogue can be a tad generic, the title's promise comes from new artist Sonny Liew. I'm pleased to see the current DC regime moving away from the baroque New 52 house style. Liew's emaciated forms combined with Lee Loughridge's strong colors produce an unsettling psychedelic effect, which compliments the story's fantastic milieu. But here's hoping Khalid does something more interesting with his costume, which for now is just him wearing the helmet over his normal street clothes.
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Artist: John Romita Jr., Karl Kerschl
Inker: Klaus Janson
Colors: Dean White
Letters: Rob Leigh
Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
A source of potential confusion over DC's handling of Superman is that the character is spread over several interconnected monthly titles. A story arc which began in one title is picked up by another. Several weeks ago, Superman's status quo was drastically altered in the pages of Action Comics #41. This involved among other things, a reduction of his powers and a change in costume. The new status quo was explored in Batman/Superman and Superman/Wonder Woman. But it's only with the recent release of Superman #41 has the cause of the change being revealed, though only partially.
The task of explicating this part of Superman's collectively molded saga is given to newcomer Gene Luen Yang. He joins the already established art team led by John Romita Jr., which lends a sense of continuity because the Superman title hasn't been able to hold on to its writers for very long since George Pérez took over in 2011. Romita and inker Klaus Janson imbue the character with a certain gritty dynamism and down-to-earth presence - qualities not usually associated with past portrayals from the character's more well-known artists.
But it's Yang who's the revelation here. Having established himself in the industry with critically lauded creator-owned passion projects, a high profile corporate property like Superman is uncharted territory for him and his fans. But Yang acquits himself very well, easily updating the well-established relationships between Clark Kent, Jimmy Olsen, and Lois Lane with relaxed, informal, and youthful banter (though Jimmy's use of a smartphone over a DSLR/ILC was ridiculous). I like how Lois rather quickly insinuates herself into an investigation the former two are secretly conducting. The story pays homage to Superman's early crusades against corrupt politicians and arms dealers, as well as the character's propensity to fight giant killer robots. There might be hope that the Superman title will finally have some stability if DC can retain Yang.