Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Countdown To Mystery: Doctor Fate and Kent Nelson—Together Again For The First Time

(Pictured above is NOT the cover to Countdown to Mystery #5 as we hated the cover so instead we pulled the cover that we do like—the promo cover by Paul Gulacy from last year’s scrapped at the last minute Doctor Fate book )

The week of January 23 was a very light one for FanBoyWonder as only one comic book was waiting for us when our friends at Brainstorm Comics reached into our pull box—Countdown to Mystery #5.

Here’s the Upshot from DC Comics: The return of Eclipso is bad news for the DC Universe...but it's worse news for Bruce Gordon, the man who originally held the Black Diamond and terrorized the world as Eclipso! Plus, Dr. Fate continues to struggle with his new responsibilities!

As regular FanBoyWonder readers know, we really could give a rat’s a** about the Eclipso story line or any/all of the DC’s Countdown titles. The only and we mean ONLY reason we have been picking up Countdown to Mystery is for the Dr. Fate story.

Being long-time fans of the Golden Age, we picked up Mystery just because Dr. Fate is a sentimental favorite—whoever is happens to be wearing the helmet. However, as we got into the story of this new Doctor Fate with a familiar name—Kent Nelson—we became more and more impressed by deeply flawed character that writer Steve Gerber has created.

Our protagonist (but not yet a “hero”) Dr. Kent V. Nelson, psychiatrist, is a distant relation/descendant of the archeologist Kent Nelson, the original Dr. Fate. The helmet of Fate is no longer the host of Nabu, Lord of Order but still a powerful source of magic in an age where the rules of magic have been re-written following Infinite Crisis and the Days of Vengeance mini-series.

Kent Nelson the next generation is a flawed and broken man. He is the physician who could not heal thyself from clinical depression and acute alcoholism and it caused him to lose everything—his wife and child, his professional reputation and his will to live when he first encountered the Helmet of Fate.

What we like is that Kent’s life suddenly doesn’t suddenly find purpose and meaning as he comes into possession of the magic helmet—in fact it gets worse or at least more complicated as he seeks to learn on even the very basic rules of wielding magic.

Last issue after cleaning up and drying out a little as well as taking a step forward in his astral education, Kent allowed himself to fall off the wagon—“What could it hurt” was his rationale.

WHO is hurt was the Good Samaritan named Inza who rescued Kent after he took a dive into the Bellagio Casino & Hotel fountain.

Inza and Kent enjoyed a good chemistry together—especially as she has climbed into the shower with him to scrub and wash his drunken ass. Just as we think we are starting to see the beginning of a beautiful friendship, it turns decidedly dark as the shower head rains down mystic acid and Kent watches Inza liquefied before his eyes and the novice mage was helpless to stop it.

And just like that Inza is dead. A spiteful act by Negal the mystical bad guy—killing an innocent woman just to torture Kent. But in a very real way, Kent killed Inza too—she was dead the moment he went on that bender and had to be rescued by her in the pool.

Issue #5 picks up from there with Kent in the now dead woman’s home awash of rage and guilt. Ironically he gets to know Inza much more intimately after she is dead as he reads the comic book she authors.

One issue after her shocking demise and we still can’t believe Inza is gone. A credit to Gerber for making us care so deeply for a character that we only knew for a handful of pages. As Kent and the reader learned more about her post-mortem during this issue, it made the tragedy all the more acute.

Now since Inza died a “magic death” meaning as opposed to being run over by a bus or getting shot, it stands to reason that she could be brought back to life by similar magical means.

We’re torn in that as much as we would like the Inza character to live and for Kent to undo his horrible mistake, dramatically it would be better for the character to learn that his “slip” from sobriety has irreversible consequences.

Double kudos to Steve Gerber for portraying (relatively speaking given the context) depression and alcoholism in a realistic fashion. Unfortunately, we have some experience in this area and we know each is a disease that not only affects the depressed and/or problem drinker but those who love them as well.

For his part, Steve Gerber has made it no secret that he is suffering from chronic health problems and he is awaiting a lung transplant. We wish him a speedy recovery regardless but selfishly we hope that he is physically able to and allowed by DC Comics to pen more adventures of this new Dr. Fate beyond this mini-series eight-issue run.


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