Current Reviews


Helmet of Fate: Zauriel #1

Posted: Friday, March 9, 2007
By: Thom Young

“The Blood of Angels”

Writer: Steve Gerber
Artist: Peter Snejberg

Publisher: DC Comics

When I was a kid, Steve Gerber was my second favorite comic book writer after Steve Englehart, so it has been with great anticipation that I’ve been awaiting his upcoming Dr. Fate series—which, of course, these Helmet of Fate one-shots have been “counting down” to. For Gerber’s sake, I hope I hate Dr. Fate.

Whenever I’ve enjoyed anything Gerber’s written—such as Mister Miracle (first series #23-25), Void Indigo (a graphic novel and two issues), and Omega the Unknown (only ten issues)—it’s been cancelled shortly after I started reading it.

While Gerber could point to several of his mini-series as avoiding the curse of me liking them—such as his Phantom Zone and Nevada projects, he’d only be partly correct. I recall in an e-mail that he told me he was planning a second Nevada mini-series. Tellingly, that follow-up series was never published.

Judging from my reaction to Helmet of Fate: Zauriel, the fate of Dr. Fate could go either way in terms of my curse. While I enjoyed this one-shot issue, I wasn’t completely thrilled. It doesn’t measure up to Gerber’s best work. However, it did contain more “intellectual depth” than any of the other Helmet of Fate one-shots—but that’s not really saying much.

The story opens with Zauriel explaining the “Pax Dei” to children in a Sunday school class. According to DC’s version of the hierarchy of angels, the “Pax Dei” are the “army of angels that maintain God’s peace—and Zauriel is from the eagle host of this Pax Dei (the other three hosts are lion, bull, and man).

In our universe, the “Pax Dei” (which means “Peace of God”) was a medieval movement in the Catholic Church that attempted to limit violence between warring feudal lords by imposing religious sanctions. It had absolutely nothing to do with angels. When Grant Morrison created Zauriel while writing JLA, he took a great deal of artistic license in revising the Judeo-Christian hierarchy of angels—specifically the cherubim who are said to have four faces in Judeo-Christian mythology (eagle, lion, ox, and man—with “ox” being their “true face”).

Okay, so Gerber’s repeating the company line established by Morrison who created Zauriel. That’s fine. Gerber has gone on record as saying he will no longer work on a character without the consent of the actual creator of that character—and Gerber would like for other writers to stay away from Howard the Duck and Omega the Unknown unless they first ask him.

So Gerber must have gotten Morrison’s approval for this Zauriel story in which he then has the Sunday school kids ask questions that Zauriel finds difficult to answer—such as:
  • If God made angels first, how could there be angels based on eagle, lion, bull, and man? (Zauriel is stumped, but the answer is that God would have based eagles, lions, cattle, and humans on the angelic hosts).

  • Where’s Heaven? (Zauriel appears unable to come up with an answer. However, the accepted answer in Materialist mythology is “on a higher plane of existence that lies beyond the material world”—and the accepted answer in Idealist mythology is “all around you, but most material beings lack the ability to perceive it”).
My favorite question put to Zauriel, though, is “If God sent his only son to Earth, and if nobody can be saved except through him, then are all the other people on all the other planets damned to Hell?

That’s an excellent question that Zauriel doesn’t know the answer to, of course. However, it seems to be a question that would be of primary importance later in the story after Zauriel’s Q&A with the kids is interrupted by “Malachy” (who I assume must be a figure from Morrison’s DC angel mythology).

Given that he stops time and appears as a tower of blue flame, I’m guessing Malachy is the equivalent of Metatron—the commander of all angels in Judeo-Christian mythology, and second to the Trinity in position of heavenly power. Because of the various meanings his name can signify, Metatron has what I consider the coolest name in literature. It’s too bad Morrison doesn’t do something with him in some of his metafiction.

Oh well, back to the story at hand where Malachy sends Zauriel on a mission to the Antares stellar system—specifically, the planet Alstair where he is to stop a planetary civil war. Zauriel points out to Malachy that such a task would usually fall to a member of the Green Lantern Corps. However, he is informed that Heaven is sending Zauriel to intervene because one of the sides has taken possession of the Helmet of Fate—and through it not only threatens the balance of power on Alstair but throughout all existence.

It’s really a rather ingenious story concept that obviously draws on a great deal of classic and contemporary literature dealing with Objects of Spiritual Power and their influence on the material realm. The problem is that it’s much too grand a concept for Gerber to adequately explore in the 13 pages that remain in this issue after Zauriel is given his assignment.

I did enjoy, though, the appearance of Hyathis (or Hyanthis)—a sometimes-villainous character who first appeared in Justice League of America (first series) #3. My only regret with the story is that Gerber didn’t have at least three issues to adequately develop it. It’s an entertaining tale as it is, but it could have been so much more.

Obviously, the child’s question about whether people on other planets go to Heaven ties into this interstellar tale involving a warrior angel and the Helmet of Fate on an alien planet—which is a very intriguing concept. Still, I hope Gerber’s Dr. Fate series will be more terrestrial than this (though also inter-dimensional).

Nevertheless, if Gerber can develop similar intriguing concepts and explore them adequately in a longer arc over at least three issues, then Dr. Fate may become one of my favorite DC series—which means, of course, it won’t last more than ten issues.

Oh, and for those of you were wondering, Gerber did indeed bring back the simian leitmotif of the first two Helmet of Fate one-shots. He showed Detective Chimp and the Egyptian God Thoth in the form of a baboon—albeit in flashback to those first two Helmet of Fate one-shots.

Sadly, Gerber had the opportunity to show an extraterrestrial simian in the jungles of Alstair, but he failed to do so. An Alstairean gibbon would have been a beautiful thing to behold.

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