Review: SHAZAM #3
[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 #3: Neron returns to test Billy Batson’s resolve! Now confronted with the truth about fellow Titans Academy student Dane’s lineage, Billy Batson must decide whether he can trust the person who brought him to hell as they searched for the missing Rock of Eternity. But as the duo grows closer to the Rock and the power of Shazam, a new threat that Billy knows all too well emerges-Neron, the demonic lord of the underworld.
Shazam #3 features the return of the demon Neron. Neron was introduced as one of Hell’s archdemons in 1995’s Underworld Unleashed event. During this event, he granted “monkey’s paw” type wishes to various DC characters. Eventually Captain Marvel defeated Neron by offering his soul for completely selfless reasons.
It appears that this story is canon again, as Billy and Neron allude to their past history. Presumably, the story more or less happened as told in Underworld Unleashed, but with Billy as Shazam, rather than the pre-Flashpoint Captain Marvel.
However, given their history and Neron’s duplicitous nature, Billy is wise to doubt Neron’s offer to help guide Billy and Dane to the Rock of Eternity. So, it comes as no surprise when Neron turns on them.
I find it interesting that Billy is the prize that Neron truly wants. Not Shazam, not Dane, but Billy. Neron declares, “I have always wanted you. Your power– not that of Shazam, but of you Billy. Your perfect, fresh-faced innocence. That’s the real prize down here”. It makes sense that a pure soul would be a rare prize, when nearly all the souls in Hell are those of sinners.
However, this doesn’t seem to fit in with the newer cynical, streetwise characterization of Billy that Geoff Johns introduced in the New 52/Rebirth reimagination of the character. It seem more in line with the pre-Flashpoint version of Billy. However, I think Tim Sheridan is moving Billy somewhat back to his classic characterization. Yes, Billy puts on a show of toughness due to his difficult early life. And he’s also got some of the brashness of youth. But at his core, he’s a decent and innocent soul. For me, this adds a dimension that makes Johns’ interpretation of the character more palatable.
I am also rather intrigued by the character who appears on the final page. Billy acknowledges the character with a questioning, “Adam?!”, which is rather accurate summation. This person is wearing Black Adam’s costume, but is it Adam? He appears to be somewhat younger than Black Adam and has white hair as opposed to Adam’s black hair. My guess is that this person has some connection to Adam, but isn’t Adam himself.
I am really enjoying Clayton Henry’s artwork in this series – especially his depiction of the titular character. I find Henry’s visual interpretation and Sheridan’s interpretation to be very evocative of Zachary Levi’s portrayal of the character. And I feel Levi to be the perfect embodiment of the character.
While I still prefer the classic version of the Captain Marvel costume, I have to admit that Henry’s gorgeous rendering has made the modern version a lot easier to accept. But I still think the hood need to go.
I think that Raven suddenly showing up to save Billy and Dane from Neron was a bit of a deus ex machina. However, Raven’s presence in the story is somewhat fitting, given her own demonic lineage, so I’ll let it pass.
Shazam #3 continues to show how great a handle Tim Sheridan has on the character of Billy Batson. Geoff Johns did much to give new life to the character during the New 52, but that reimagination left some rough edges. And Sheridan is doing an exemplary job of smoothing them out. DC should really consider giving Sheridan an ongoing Shazam title.