Credits: Keith Giffen (writer), Ron Wagner (penciler), Bill Reinhold (inker), Gaspar (letterer), Mike Danza (colorist)
Summary: Explorer Jared Stevens discovers the Tomb of Nabu when an old man leads him through an invisible entrance in the desert. Jared discovers the old man is the previous Dr. Fate, Kent Nelson. When Jared takes the Artifacts of Order, Kent and his wife Inza are restored to their youth and disappear. Soon, Jared is caught in a battle between Order and Chaos that leaves his body badly burned. Using the cloak of Dr. Fate as a bandage, Jared’s skin is healed. He returns home, only to discover his employer Marsh doesn’t believe his story.
Irrelevant Continuity: This series is a follow-up to the previous Dr. Fate ongoing, Fate.
Total N00B: Judging by the letters page, Jared Stevens is apparently an established character from the Fate series, even though he remains skeptical about the existence of Dr. Fate during the story’s opening. I also don’t know if the characters Jared mentions repeatedly throughout the issue -- his ex-wife Holly, her father (?) Marsh, and his “alleged best friend” Arnold Burnsteel -- have already appeared. The story certainly acts as if we should know who they are.
Review: My knowledge of Dr. Fate is limited to his Super Powers action figure and his appearances on the ‘90s Superman cartoon. Consequently, I have no idea what this is. On a basic level, I get it. Unlikely hero finds mystic artifacts and gains super powers, sure. But there’s a sense that as a reader, I should already know all of these characters and attach some kind of significance to Jared Stevens becoming the new Dr. Fate, (if in fact that’s the title he’ll go by in this series) and that’s the real failing of the story. It’s far too cryptic to truly be enjoyed, and as a main character, Jared Stevens is too much of a cliché at this point to be engaging. He’s Ben Grimm without the charm and a PG-13 potty mouth; he’s no hero, but maybe, just maybe, he’ll learn about true heroism as the months pass.
I do have some faith in Giffen’s ability to make this work; it’s just such a tired formula, even for 1997, that I’m not thrilled with the set up. The art, however, is everything I hoped it would be. Not to oversell it, but the combination of Ron Wagner and Bill Reinhold almost resembles Joe Kubert inked by Klaus Janson. Even when the story itself doesn’t make a lot of sense, the visual storytelling is always clear, and the figures look recognizably human and natural. This may not be the most appropriate art team for a goth Dr. Fate reboot, but so far they’re the highlight of the series.