REVIEW: Shazam! #1

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A particularly nasty demonic entity known as Blaze is set out to eliminate Shazam!, known in the mortal plane as Freddy Freeman. Billy and Mary Batson (Mary Marvel & Captain Marvel Jr) are no longer endowed with their powers. How far are they willing to go to get them back? Quit your stallin’ and take the jump!

SHAZAM #1 (1-shot)
Writer: Eric Wallace
Artist: Cliff Richards
Colors: Hi-Fi
Letters: Swands
Cover: Cliff Chiang
Editor: Rex Ogle
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously: Freddy Freeman has been away for a while. An editorial note explains that after the events in JLA: Cry For Justice, something particularly nasty happened to Star City, causing our titular character to shun contact and effectively disappear for several months.

Boy, Shazam! and Superman (Returns) DO Have A Lot In Common!

Mary and Billy are essentially family to Freddy, so it’s perfectly understandable that despite the fact that 2/3rds of the ‘Shazam! Trinity’ has been depowered, the lone standout would abandon them because he needed to ‘get away.’ Shades of ‘Superman Returns’ filter through my mind as I desperately try to come to terms with the dichotomy between ‘heroism’ and ‘abandonment.’ Even taking the concept of ‘protecting humanity’ out of the equation, the more intimate nature of responsibility proves equally troublesome. The people who love you and depend on you as a member of their family experience the trauma of their patriarch ducking away in the night.

What Came Before – Leave Your Baggage At The Door

It’s been a long time since I’ve read any Shazam! or Captain Marvel comics. I was under the impression that Billy Batson was Shazam!, but I’m sure this is something that has been addressed in recent years that I’m just not aware of. No matter, it didn’t impact my impression of the story. Perhaps the events that transpire in JLA: Cry For Justice would give me a clearer understanding of what led to Freeman’s decision to ‘abandon ship.’ Based on the reviews and feedback I’ve received from colleagues, I effectively went out of my way to avoid reading that mini-series. All of these factors mean that I entered into this reading experience with no preconceptions, baggage or questions of continuity on my mind.

Freddy essentially comes clean with the Batsons, apologizing for his prolonged absence while proclaiming his intention to keep the family together, super-powered or not. The timing is impeccable because as it turns out, the major threat (Blaze) is soon upon the scene and her intentions are also vocalized. She wants Shazam! dead.

Don’t Forget To Tip Your Waitress

Half a city block is destroyed in their skirmish and as it turns out, the Batsons make a solid contribution to the outcome of the fight. Take away their powers, sure…but you can’t take away heroism. As it turns out, can’t take away pop culture references when writing witty banter for the Big Red Cheese.

Blaze laments the fact that she can’t get a good sports package on her cable service in Hell. Jokes about working for the ‘boss from Hell’ and even a reference to a Sister Sledge song are all served up for the reader’s entertainment. While I appreciated the overture to avoid making the book come across too serious and full of itself, the humor fell a bit flat for my tastes.

Bottom Line: Fans of Shazam! Should Take a Look

If you’re like me, and have only a fleeting interest in the character, missing out on this issue won’t destroy your comics reading experience. I have some real issues with some of the plot developments that occurred PRIOR to this issue taking place, making this issue a real uphill battle for writer Eric Wallace. Considering what he was given to work with, I think he did an admirable job. Shazam #1 earns 3 out of 5 stars.

Rating: ★★★☆☆