Current Reviews


Countdown to Mystery #2

Posted: Monday, November 12, 2007
By: Christopher Power

Writer: Steve Gerber, Matthew Sturges
Artist(s): Justiniano, Waiden Wong (i), Stephen Jorge Segovia

Brushing himself off from the street life, the second issue of adventures with the new Dr. Fate facing off against…something. We eventually find out that the other worldly being is the controller of a dominion of souls, and in particular those who are tortured by their own personal demons and psychological problems.

This leaves us with a former psychiatrist facing off against the demon fuelled by his own failures. I think this was a beautifully poetic statement about how our own demons can affect those around us. In all truth, the message resonates with me more than I would have expected. It is almost like Kent Nelson is being presented with all of his failures realized in a nightmarish form. It may be a metaphor for the type of deep reflection that is needed when you hit absolute bottom, or the far end of a life crisis. If this is the intention, then it feels like a good fit for a fantasy book like Dr. Fate.

The initial conflict and action sequences make you wonder if Kent is even going to survive his first encounter, but then the Helmet takes over, whispering the spells in the ears of the new Dr. Fate. While this sequence is very interesting in itself, I think the reaction after the fight was the most interesting. It could have been the case that, like in many books, the possessor of the newfound goes off and becomes a hero. In this book however, Kent sits down and says “What have I done?” He then considers whether he is going insane or not, and decides that he does not want any part of what is happening and would rather get his life back on track. After that there are a number of other supernatural events that I enjoyed a great deal. I do not want to spoil the story, however, I will say that Gerber’s dialogue flows like a river. I found myself getting lost in the characters, even the bum that betrayed Nelson and stole his money.

Art wise, much like the first book, we have the juxtaposition of the bright colours of Dr. Fate with the darkness of his adversaries. Then, the return to the real world it lit (even at night) with pastel blues, pinks and yellows. The pencils by Justiniano are amazing, with Fate striking all of the classic poses and fantastic close up shots of the helmet and even the eyes of the man inside the helmet. The later appearances of the demons are unique, but are reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s underworld beasties from Sandman, which is appropriate given the universe the story takes place in.

I honestly think that this series is going to be entirely about the culmination of the collapse of a man during a mid-life crisis and the eventual resolution of him finding new purpose in his life. After a lack-luster start, I loved this story, and I’m eager for more.

The second story in the book, which I was counting on liking, is driving me nuts. I really want to like it, but this story is all over the place. We have Eclipso with Darkseid, Eclipso on Earth with Jack Ryder, Plastic Man robbing banks for reasons that are beyond me, Plastic Man fighting his son and, in general, acting out of character without enough of a reason from Eclipso. I really wish that story was better, but I have this feeling that it is some excuse to explain why Eclipso is so important in Countdown.

There are some other serious problems, but they extend beyond the book. The change of the Spectre bond, where there is no contact by the human host with the outside world is such a deviation from the way the Spectre stories work, and it just doesn’t seem like a character I recognize any more (except for the ironic punishment). The interesting part of the Spectre for me was the human host living without a soul, knowing they could never go on to their rightful resting place, but doing good in spite of that. In the modern incarnation, I do not feel anything but pity for poor old Crispin Allen.

Sadly, I also am not a fan of the art. The wash colors, especially in the scenes with Eclipso, just don’t work. The lack of detail in the pencils is a serious problem in the Plastic Man sections where you rely on crisp lines to understand the powers and how they work.

Overall, the book is worth it for the Dr. Fate story. I now very much want to collect the rest of the series.

What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!