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Location: Lancashire
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Subj: Earth-2 #10: Return of Fate.
Posted: Sun Mar 10, 2013 at 11:50:56 am EDT (Viewed 538 times)

History Repeats: Khalid Ben-Hassin is the new Kent Nelson...

One of the more intriguing central concepts to this new take on Earth-2 we are reading about here in this book is that magic and the divine are much more present and active qualities within the worlds fabric and major events. The Flash gains his power from a dying Mercury - last of the Olympian Gods, The Green Lantern gains his power from the spirit of the earth, with new villain Grundy being his opposite as the physical embodiment of the forces of entropy and decay, and now here in issue #10 we not only learn Hawkgirl's origin and appearance is due to mystical forces but are introduced to the modern take on both Doctor Fate, and arch villain Wotan!
As an explanation for why a world can have superhumans and fantastical events this is a novel enough rationale, in the modernday most Superhero universes lean to science as the source point but looking back to realworld mythology and history it was magic both and supernature that influenced the events going on in the world and informed how people perceived their both environment and destiny on a daily basis. Earth-2 seems to be tapping into that shared folklore, not that this earth is a superstitious place or lacking in superscience but it does seem clear magic is much more influencial and active than on the Justice League's own earth-1 for example.

In fact though magic and the supernatural were always strong components to the Justice Society's make up, going all the way back to their 1940s origins, but here it is made a deliberate selling point.
The Flash, his Mom, and Khalid Ben-Hassin have been transported to the otherworldly location that houses the Tower of Fate. Wotan is a green skinned asexual sorceror who wants the helmet of Nabu, which Ben has rejected, in order to access all of Nabu's power. Nabu was the most powerful sorcer of ancient times and we learn that Ben was accompanying Kendra Saunders on an archeological search for the fabled helmet, all sponsored by the world army. Something went wrong when they uncovered a secret chamber and Kendra was left with Hawkgirl wings while Ben was left haunted by the knowledge he had been chosen by the unfathomable spirit of Nabu as his modernday successor, a role he rejects. But Nabu's will is not easy to ignore...
So in this limbo where Ben sent the helmet Wotan needs them to enter the tower and reclaim the helmet - Flash's mom is held as the hostage and incentive to do so.

And that's the plot in a nutshell.

Nicola and Trevor Scott return again as artist and inker respectively and her sharp crisp lines have helped form the tone and feel of this book. With the contribution of colorist Alex Sinclair the stunning realisation of the Tower of Fate and its internal chaos is a visual masterpiece, though due to its sheer detail and Escher inspired architecture not something many artists would care to draw on a regular basis. Perhaps as great a triumph however is the reinvention of the Sorceror Wotan. Wotan is a character who has drifted around in the DCU since the 1940s, a bizarre green skinned wizard he belonged to a certain type of oddball super-villain list that DC wouldn’t let go despite them belonging to a whole other era of comics and never gaining any level of popularity. I can’t say as I ever liked Wotan as apart from his appearance he had one of the most impenetrable and unlikely backstorys I’ve ever seen for a villainous sorcerer… here James Robinson takes all of that and does his standard trick of modernising it, without actually changing anything! And it works. Wotan here is more youthful and cool than any previous incarnation we saw before, he has a veneer of charm which hides the menace lurking below the surface. In his podcast James Robinson reveals he was going for an Alan Rickman aproach with the character, an urbane well presented villain who can charm his way to what he wants without reverting to the rages and petulance of a similar Mordru type wizard. So along with Nicola Scott’s redesign we have a fairly interesting new addition to the JSA canon, Wotan is finally given a well earned shot at being a credible and likable frontline super-villain.
On a similar front the new origin of Doctor Fate and Nabu is left virtually unchanged. Much of this plot is identical to the way the character was reintroduced to the JSA back in the 1999 relaunch by Goyer & Johns, a new Doctor Fate is destined to rise to save the world from chaos but the host, as with Kent Nelson, is a reluctant and haunted figure who resists and fears Nabu’s legacy.
I can’t say as I like this new Fate-in-the-Making any more than I liked previous Kent Nelson versions. Khalid Ben-Hassin is an American Egyptian and has studied both ancient history and the occult, he is a friend and partner to Kendra Saunders and the incident that gave her her wings is liked to Nabu and his ancient Egyptian roots in some as yet unknown way. But Ben is very much Kent Nelson by another name, I’m finding it hard to connect with him on an emotional level and that doesn’t bode well for my particularly liking this new Doctor Fate he is soon to become. I can only assume it is due to the reluctant nature of Ben/Kent formula that has this effect, both of these really do come across as pretty miserable people all the time and constantly unwilling to adopt and embrace the hero role fate required of them.
By contrast I was a fan of Hector Hall for example and that was because he fully embraced the role he was given as Fate, challenging though it was he didn’t ever reject it and he didn’t particularly fear Nabu unduly either. With introducing the young Ben James Robinson has done a commendable thing by making him Egyptian in terms of heritage but he is repeating history too much by patterning him exactly on Kent Nelson and his constant reluctance to don the role of Doctor Fate. He’s making the same old mistakes that consistently held back Nelson & Fate in terms of popularity and accessibility. And therefore repeating a well worn formula that was never really a success to begin with.

Other plotlines this issue see Alan Scott learn that partner Sam was likely the real target for the bomb that killed him and led to Alan’s becoming The Green Lantern, leading Alan to beat up on local Asian gangs for leads and eventually find and ask Hawkgirl when he realises he’s getting nowhere.
I have no idea how he finds Kendra here, can he home in on her due to her pseudo-mystical nature perhaps? Either was at least it starts the process of drawing him into the clique that will go on the form the new JSA, I have my problems with this version of Alan but he is exactly the sort of strong personality that is needed to draw these disparate characters together and keep them together. His role as chairman of Gotham Broadcasting will ensure he is a capable leader and able to deal with the schemes and demands of the World Army and the Council. What it is that Sam did that deserved the crude response of a bomb on a train is something I hope makes sense when this tale unfolds...

A fine issue all in all. \(coffee\)

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