By Faefyx Collington
Black Adam is set to redefine the DCEU, but how does that one character death fit into all of that, and is it likely to be a permanent death?
Warning: Contains MAJOR spoilers for Black Adam!
After introducing a full team for the Justice Society of America, Black Adam sees the death of Doctor Fate. Played by Pierce Brosnan, Doctor Fate is an old friend of Aldis Hodge’s Hawkman (AKA Carter Hall). He serves as a calmer presence throughout the movie, providing the JSA with a more cautious outlook while Hawkman continually attempts to defeat Black Adam in physical combat.
In the comics, Doctor Fate is a founding member of the Justice Society, and Black Adam sets Kent Nelson up as a retired member of the team who is coming back to help with one last job. Based on historical movie tropes around retired heroes and their last mission, it might not be ultimately surprising that Doctor Fate dies in Black Adam. However, the lead-up to Doctor Fate’s death at the hands of Sabbac is still shocking, and there are plenty of questions surrounding Doctor Fate’s Black Adam death, his decision to fight Sabbac alone, and whether Kent Nelson or Doctor Fate have a DCEU future.
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Why Doctor Fate Was Happy To Die
After having a vision that shows Hawkman dying in the final Black Adam fight, Doctor Fate blocks the rest of the Justice Society from entering the palace ruins in Kandaq to fight Sabbac himself. In doing so, it seems that he is able to prevent his vision from coming to pass. However, doing so requires Kent Nelson dying, a fact that Doctor Fate appeared to be fully aware of when he goes to fight Sabbac.
Doctor Fate’s sacrifice in Black Adam makes sense as a way for him to save Hawkman as the two have clearly been close friends for a long time. However, that does not necessarily explain the explicit happiness that Kent Nelson seems to experience about his death. However, Doctor Fate’s Black Adam death is set up with his hesitance to use his powers. While his helmet grants him great powers, the helmet also possesses him to an extent, taking away some of his control. Through those powers, he has been able to see what the future holds for many years, and it is noted that he has been around for at least 100 years. Doctor Fate’s happiness over his death comes from the freedom it grants him from the helmet and from a determined fate as he finally sees nothing ahead for himself that he must worry about.
Doctor Fate’s Visions Explained (& Why He Could Change Them)
Doctor Fate’s visions of the future run throughout Black Adam as seemingly immovable results of the story. These would seem to fit the name of Doctor Fate as being inescapable. In turn, the idea that this vision of the future cannot be changed fits with the narratives of countless movies and TV shows that have explored the results of seeing into the future.
However, while Black Adam only shows one future that Doctor Fate sees, this is somewhat of a cheap move by the DC movie as Kent Nelson reveals that he actually saw several possibilities. This is much more akin to the futures that are seen in the culmination of the MCU’s Infinity Saga by Doctor Strange (a character who had influence on later versions of the comics portrayal of Doctor Fate, an influence that is clear when watching Black Adam). While Doctor Fate saw a future where Hawkman died, Black Adam never showed the vision that Fate had where Kent Nelson died instead. He could see the paths to the different fates, but knew, just as Doctor Strange did, that revealing how those paths worked too early would stop their success from being possible regardless of who died in the process.
Interestingly, it is arguable as to whether Doctor Fate really did stop his vision. He seemed to not be able to see his own death, but when Hawkman used the helmet to trick Sabbac, the vision of Hawkman’s death is identical to that shown in Kent Nelson’s Black Adam vision. This seems for a moment as though it is a statement that that future could not be changed, but it is possible that as the vision comes from Doctor Fate’s helmet, the helmet itself was recreating the exact vision as part of the trickery against Sabbac.
Why Doctor Fate’s Helmet Disappeared After The Fight (Not During)
After Doctor Fate dies in Black Adam, his helmet falls to the floor and is eventually picked up by Hawkman who uses its powers to help the Justice Society and Black Adam himself to defeat Sabbac. It is not until after the battle is concluded that Doctor Fate’s helmet dissolves from Hawkman’s clutches with the particles floating off into the sky. Earlier in Black Adam, when the Justice Society's Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell) and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) are discussing Fate’s helmet, it is mentioned that it chooses who can touch it and use its powers, so Doctor Fate’s helmet serves as a representation of how its own agency over who can touch it as it leaves Hawkman and presumably searches for a new host.
While Doctor Fate’s helmet disappearing in Black Adam makes sense, it might seem odd that Fate’s helmet did not disappear as soon as he was killed and that it let Hawkman touch it. Doctor Fate’s helmet is able to possess the wearer because (at least in the comics) it is not just sentient, but is inhabited by the god Nabu. Having been bonded with Kent Nelson for so many years, the helmet and Nabu presumably came to feel some sort of emotional sentiment towards the mortal. After Kent’s death in the DCEU's Black Adam, the helmet stayed around and allowed Hawkman to use its power to be able to enact vengeance against Sabbac for killing Kent. However, once that vengeance had been concluded, the helmet moved on.
Will Doctor Fate Return In The DCEU?
Whenever a major comic book character dies, it’s not unusual for them not to stay that way. But after Doctor Fate’s Black Adam death, is it possible for him to return to the DCEU? The short answer is yes, but there’s some more complexity to it than that. In the comics, Doctor Fate is defined by the helmet, not the person, and while Kent Nelson is the first Doctor Fate in each iteration of the DC timeline, he’s not the only one. With the helmet leaving at the end of Black Adam, it seems likely that the helmet could pass to a new host and a version of Doctor Fate could appear in the DCEU again, despite his death in Black Adam.
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However, perhaps the bigger question about the Black Adam death is whether or not Pierce Brosnan’s Kent Nelson can return to the DCEU. Technically, it was not Doctor Fate who actually died, but Kent himself, and while the helmet can take on a new host (in the most recent comics Kent’s mantle is taken up by his apprentice and grandnephew Khalid Nassour) Kent returning to the DCEU in full form seems unlikely. There is a doorway open for Pierce Brosnan to reprise his Black Adam role in the DCEU however as in the animated series Young Justice, after Kent Nelson’s death he is able to contain his spirit within the helmet for a time. This could allow Kent and Pierce Brosnan to appear to future users of the helmet, if not in a fully corporeal form, and might also provide additional reasoning for why Hawkman was able to use Doctor Fate’s helmet after Kent Nelson’s death in Black Adam.
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