Review: SHAZAM #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Tim Sheridan
Artist: Clayton Henry
Colours: Marcelo Maiolo
Letters: Rob Leigh
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Shazam #1: Billy Batson came to Titans Academy looking for answers. Why was the rest of his adopted family cut off from the power of Shazam? Why are his own powers becoming increasingly unreliable? The answers send Billy on an outrageous adventure that’ll not only change him but have an immense impact on the school and other students on Titans Island.
Spinning out of his Teen Titans Academy series, Tim Sheridan brings us the return of the World’s Mightiest Mortal in Shazam #1. In Future State: Teen Titans, Sheridan showed us a future with Shazam as a core member of the Titans. And in Teen Titans Academy, we have seen Billy as a student at the Titans’ school. But we haven’t seen Billy’s alter ego. It was then revealed that Billy was having problems with his powers.
With this miniseries, Sheridan delves into the matter in detail. It appears that Billy cannot always call down the lightning. And when it does come, some or all of his powers can cut out, often transforming Shazam back to Billy.
Sheridan’s story expresses the duality of Billy and Shazam. In his heroic identity, he is seen as a veteran superhero, and one of the heaviest hitters in the school. But Billy is a kid struggling to cope with the loss of his powers. Even the older heroes seem to have trouble figuring out how to relate to him. They seem to see him both as the experience hero, and the troubled kid.
Billy’s loss of power also extends to the other members of the Shazam Family. Billy only has spotty access to his powers, and is unable to share them at all with the others. And it appears that Freddy Freeman’s physical condition is deteriorating. Mary visits, imploring Billy to visit Freddy, but Billy is reluctant to face up to the others.
The issue I had with the previous Shazam title by Geoff Johns was that there were too many characters and too much going on. Johns doubled the size of the family and juggled multiple villains in a single storyline. I felt that that the series would have been better if it focused on Billy tackling a single adventure with a single villain at a time. And Sheridan appears to be giving us such a story. We haven’t met the story’s villain yet, but the series is clearly centred on Billy undertaking a quest to fix his powers.
We are introduced to a new character who is something of a mystery so far. He’s a fellow student of the Academy by the name of Dane. We don’t know much about him, but we know that Billy’s initial impression is that he “seems like a good kid” and Raven agrees with this statement. So it seems likely that he will prove to be an ally to Billy. What we do know, is that he is able to open a portal to Hell. I wonder who he is and what exactly his powers are.
I quite liked the brief appearance of the new Superman, Jon Kent. There is an odd similarity in their situations. Jon recently went from being a kid to a near adult, while Billy regularly goes back and forth between kid and adult. I especially loved when Billy asserts that he’s older than Jon. And Jon’s response is simply, “Not anymore”.
I also liked the nice bit of foreshadowing during Billy’s scuffle with Brick. Brick tells Billy, “Go. To. Hell”. And the issue ends with Billy literally travelling to Hell with Dane. And Billy’s muttered “Holy Moley” upon arriving there was the perfect touch.
I also quite enjoyed Clayton Henry’s artwork in Shazam #1. There are a lot of DC characters present in this issue, and Henry perfectly depicts them all. I especially loved the triumphant entrance of the Big Red Cheese at the start of the story, right before his powers give out. In just a few panels, Henry gives us a clear depiction of how Shazam at the height of his power. This helps us understand the loss that Billy is experiencing as his powers continue to decline.
The story in Shazam #1 seems to be headed towards the future we saw for Billy in Future State: Teen Titans. In that future, Billy ends up trapped in Hell and separated from his Shazam persona. While that makes for an interesting story, I don’t know that I really want to see that future actually come to pass. That would come as something of a disappointment. But I suspect that Sheridan has more in mind than just connecting the dots between the present and that particular future timeline.
With Shazam #1, Sheridan again shows us why he’s one of DC’s hottest writers. This series puts the focus on Billy Batson, which is the thing I most want to see in a Shazam series. I look forward to seeing what Sheridan has planned for Billy in the issues ahead.