First off, know that this post is
relevant to Harvey Dent. But during the course of my research in preparing for this review, I realized that there was a lot more worth discussing than just Harvey.
So if you'll indulge me... I'd like to talk about Jared Stevens.
I don't expect most of you to know that name. And if you recognize it, I imagine that the immediate reaction you likely feel is disdain, or to emit a shudder like a hyena hearing Mufasa. "Oh god," I can hear you say, "Do you mean the crappy, 90's-tactic X-TREEEME update of Dr. Fate?" Well, you'd be mostly
right. I mean, he's Fate
, all right...
Yes, that's you, you utter abomination of a character, you. Just "Fate," trading in his legacy character's doctorate and iconic costume for a sweet facial tat, a big honkin' knife, and Liefeldian pouches, pouches, POUCHES GALORE!
Okay, full disclosure: I haven't actually read Fate
, Jared's first solo series from 1994. Heck, since I was a fan of its spin-off series Scare Tactics
, I should probably judge it for more than just its reputation
, not to mention the character's awful, awful design and grim-n-gritty post-Cable datedness. But... but just look
at that costume, man! How? What kind of loving god and/or ethical editor could have let this happen?!
Well, you see, in the dark period known as the 90's, DC decided that the old Golden Age superheroes were outdated, old fogies who needed to go away and die. Did you know what the Justice Society of America
's series--the one which featuring old-fogie Golden Age superheroes--was not cancelled due to bad sales? No, in truth, the sales were reportedly solid! But DC editor-in-chief Mike Carlin gave JSoA
the axe because it didn't "fit" in their new ideas of what the DCU should be. Some of those ideas included driving Hal Jordan insane and replacing him with a younger, hipper version with stupid curtain hair, a crab-mask, and a propensity for creating manga robots because that's what the kids like today, right?
But despite my teenage H.E.A.T.-member disdain poking through, I cannot deny that out-with-the-old moves like Kyle Rayner (and also Starman, whom I vastly preferred) were successful for DC. The same cannot be said for other
attempts at updating, such as turning Manhunter
into this monstrosity
, and Dr. Fate into what you see above there you. Both were cancelled before too long, with Fate getting canned after 22 issues
. That's not so bad, considering how many titles don't make it past twelve, or even six, in some cases. Nonetheless, it was still a failure, doomed to gather dust in dollar bins.
So what the HELL possessed DC to redesign, reboot, and relaunch the series a year later as The Book of Fate?
Let's trade the spandex bodysuit for DAGGERS STUCK IN HIS FRAGGIN' ARM, WHAT THE HELL?!
Needless to say, the second time was not the charm. 1997's The Book of Fate
lasted about half as long as 1994's Fate
, and those few who remember it do so even less fondly than the first time around. Clearly, no fanboys nor fangirls were heeding Jared's almighty t-shirt.
But here's the crazy thing: The Book of Fate
kinda wasn't a totally terrible series. No, seriously! Yes, the book with that horrible cover, it was... good! Better than acceptable! Worth a look-see! Maybe your first indication of quality was the name "Keith Giffen," the masterful comics journeyman behind such smartly hilarious fare such as Ambush Bug
and Justice League International
, plus a million other goddamn books.
That's including series like Vext
, which was offbeat, witty, and cancelled at six issues.
Now, do I think that The Book of Fate
was a brilliant series cancelled before its time? Well, not exactly. But I do think it had a lot more going on than people would credit it, likely because most never touched the damn thing in the first place. And besides, I also think that it might have the single greatest final issue of a cancelled comic I have ever read.
So because no one else is gonna do it, I'd like to examine the high points of this unloved, willfully-forgotten series. And in case you're wondering why the hell it's relevant, there are two reasons. One is the thematic elements of being someone torn between literal Order and Chaos, themes which are very much in keeping with this blog. And the other reason is, well, it has Two-Face in it for a couple issues!
Oh yes. They're buddies! Kinda. What happens when the man who defines his life by order and chaos (well, depending on the writer) meets up with the man who refuses to ally with either? Not as much as I'd like, but hey, it's still fun, and features some of the best-drawn Harvey I've ever seen. And again, Keith Giffen. That alone warrants a skim at least, right? Right! Probably! Whee!( The strange, often-dated, often-hilarious second life of Jared Stevens, the Fate, behind the cut )
Y'know what? Maybe it's just because I've honestly never given a damn about any Dr. Fate comics (if there's a great story I haven't read, please hit me with recommendations!) but Jared is quite honestly the only Fate who ever interested me. At his best, he had a fun Bruce Campbell flair. At his worst, he was a glorious disaster. On ether end of the balance, he was at least interesting, and that's not so bad in the long run.
Still, a shame that there wasn't more done with Jared and Harvey. Sure, maybe a new Dr. Fate might run into Harvey, and maybe some writer will properly use Two-Face to explore themes of Order and Chaos... but without Jared, it just wouldn't be the same.
Yeah, that's right. I... kinda like Jared Stevens! Wanna fight about it?