The Revolution has been rather disappointed in Winick’s Trials of Shazam. Before this series came out I was optimistic about how good this series would be. I thought the general storyline had tons of potential and that Winick had the perfect opportunity to make the Captain Marvel Family relevant in the DC Universe.
Unfortunately, Winick has failed to do much of anything with this series. The grades for each issue have consistently dropped over the course of this series. That is a bad trend. Winick’s re-imagining of Captain Marvel’s world has been P.C. and horribly forced in an effort to come off as hip, trendy and modern. Maybe Trials of Shazam #6 will get me to change my mind. Let’s hit this review.
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Howard Porter
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We start with Feddy shocked that he can now turn into Captain Marvel without having to say the word “Shazam.” Billy Batson tells Freddy that the Book of Magic has been rewritten and that Freddy only needs to think about the power of Shazam in order to summon it.
We cut to the Council of Merlin where Grope is pissed that they still haven’t killed Freddy and that Freddy keeps getting more and more powerful. Sabina cops an attitude with Grope. Grope smashes the meeting table in half and then grabs Sabina by the throat and lays down the law. Sabina swears that she will stop Freddy.
We shift to Freddy and Zareb are entering a prison. One of the inmates is none other than the current incarnation of Hercules. Freddy and Zareb go to the visitation room. They see a very large either Hispanic or maybe Samoan man being led over to them. He is Hercules. Hercules says he is in jail for 14 murders. Hercules was fighting a drug war with the Yakuza.
Hercules says that in reality the drug war was really a battle of sorcery and will. That Hercules wasn’t trying to step on Yakuza drug trafficking. He was actually fighting Medusa as she attempted to establish a realm of death on Earth. That during the battle, when Hercules took out some of Medusa’s minions, it activated a reckoning spell. The blast killed four innocent mortals. This left Hercules as weak as any other human being.
Hercules tells Freddy that his trial is to break Hercules out of jail. We see Zareb and Freddy walking out of the prison. Zareb says that they cannot break Hercules free. That Hercules took the lives of innocent mortals and that breaks the magical covenant for a being of his rank. That Hercules remains a mortal as his penance.
We cut to Hercules meeting with a female attorney. Hercules asks who the attorney is and why is she here. Hercules didn’t ask for a lawyer and has never seen her before. The attorney says that Medusa’s spell can be broken. The lawyer is Sabina in disguise. Sabina takes Medusa’s head out of a briefcase. Sabina tells Hercules to give her his power and she will have the head of Medusa break the spell.
We shift to Freddy and Zareb outside of the prison. The prison wall suddenly explodes open. Sabina steps out of the prison and quotes Scott Hall “Score one for the bad guys.” Sabina has the power of Hercules. We see Hercules lying on the floor in the prison. Hercules says that his power has to be earned. That it can’t be stolen. That Hercules has more power and it belongs elsewhere.
Freddy suddenly feels strange and then says that he feels much stronger. Freddy then says Shazam and turns into Captain Marvel. Freddy has the power of Hercules. Sabina and Captain Marvel then square off in front of each other. End of issue.
The Good: Sheesh, following the Revolution’s Rule of Positivity isn’t going to be easy with Trials of Shazam #6. I just can’t find much about Winick’s effort on this issue to praise. So, I’ll just praise Howard Porter instead.
Porter turns in another good looking issue. Porter’s distinctive style is sure to turn off some people. Personally, I dig it. Porter gives Trials of Shazam its own unique look and makes for a rather vibrant looking comic book. And Porter’s Hercules looks bad-assed.
I did find it interesting that Winick has now changed one of the biggest rules for Captain Marvel in that Freddy needs to merely think about his powers and he can turn into Captain Marvel. This is a massive break from Captain Marvel’s history. Personally, I don’t really care one way or the other how Freddy summons his powers. But, I am curious to see how long-time Captain Marvel fans react to this change.
The Bad: Trials of Shazam #6 was a pretty dreadful read. Winick manages to do nothing with this issue. This issue didn’t provide the reader any action. This issue also didn’t provide the reader with a strong storyline full of great character development and dialogue. That is the kiss of death to an issue.
A truly excellent comic book should be able to pull of a mix of both. However, at the very least, a comic book should provide at least one of the aforementioned requirements. If it is light in the character development and dialogue then it should compensate with kick-ass action. If it is weak in action then it should compensate with strong character development and dialogue. Winick successfully managed to do neither with Trials of Shazam #6.
Trials of Shazam #6 was a boring read. Nothing really happens in this issue. We meet Hercules and then set up a showdown between Sabina and Freddy. End of issue. There is no interesting action in this issue. And there is certainly no interesting character development in this issue. Trials of Shazam lacked any type of substance or purpose.
Trials of Shazam #6 was also painfully predictable. What a shock. Hercules, the Roman God who is known as Heracles in the original ancient Greek mythology is portrayed as a non-European male. Like we didn’t see that coming from a mile away after getting the non-European female for Solomon and seeing the two non-European forms of Achilles.
I think it is safe to say that my prediction of half of the Greek/Roman Gods (plus the Jewish character of Solomon) that make up Shazam would be non-Europeans is going to be incorrect. Three down and three more gods to go, I think that Winick is going to make all six gods non-Europeans.
Maybe Jewish, Greek and Italian Americans don’t care. But, I find it improper that Winick replaces European gods (and Solomon) with non-European characters. I have said it in almost every review, but it bears repeating. DC would never replace the ancient gods from Asian, African or Central American mythology with European characters. And if they did, you know that there would be people going berserk over such a move.
All cultures deserve to be respected. I wouldn’t want someone changing the ethnicity of characters from my culture’s history so why should I applaud it being done to someone else’s culture. I can’t believe that even the most ardent advocates of diversity in comic books would condemn Winick for writing Roman and Greek Gods and the one Jewish character as white males.
Seriously, rather than seeing Hispanic versions of the ancient gods in this title, I would much rather have DC give me some cool new Hispanic super heroes. And Renee Montoya most definately doesn’t fill that request. Maybe even a Hispanic JLA’er would be nice. And don’t even think of brining up that horridly lame ass character Vibe. Those things mean way more to me than what Winick is doing with the re-imagining of the gods.
And here is another issue I have with Winick’s vision of the Greek and Roman gods. Winick makes a big deal that there are no longer one individual god, but rather stations that represents a specific god that is filled by various human forms. So, we have Winick gives us the non-traditional form of Hercules in this issue. Yet, over in Wonder Woman, we have seen the real Hercules running around. Yeah, big European Hercules straight from Olympus in all his glory. So, how does DC explain that complete contradiction?
At any rate, I have probably belabored the point about the gods enough in my previous reviews of this title. I won’t comment on it again for the rest of this series. There isn’t much more to say about it.
I do believe that Winick doesn’t need to change the Greek and Roman gods in order to make this title more interesting to the modern day reader. What Winick needs to do to make Captain Marvel more interesting to the modern day reader is to actually pull off some character development on Freddy’s character as well as further fleshing out Billy’s new role in the DC Universe. Now, that would require hard work and talent.
So, Winick avoids this path and goes for the cheap and easy gimmicks with Zareb and the new form of Greek and Roman gods instead in order to trick the reader into thinking he is growing Captain Marvel’s character. It is just smoke and mirrors. Winick has done nothing to actually foster the growth and further development of either Billy or Freddy’s characters.
And that leads me to by far my biggest complain with Trials of Shazam. Winick has completely failed to perform any type of character development or growth for Freddy or Billy. Neither character has been fleshed out at all. Freddy is about as generic and one-dimensional as possible. Freddy is devoid of any trace of a unique or developed personality.
Winick has completely failed to perform what I thought was the central goal of this title. I thought that the purpose of Trials of Shazam was to focus on Freddy’s character and to grow his character and personality into an intriguing and interesting character that has a major role within this new DC Universe. Winick’s Freddy is a rather shallow and basic character that fails to capture the reader’s interest.
And one large reason why the character development has been stunted can be attributed to Winick’s pedestrian dialogue. The dialogue in Trials of Shazam is stiff and dull. None of the characters have a unique or well developed external voice. The dialogue does not have a natural conversational flow and there is absolutely no chemistry at all between any of the characters.
Overall: Trials of Shazam has steadily gone downhill ever since a strong showing on Trials of Shazam #1. Winick has turned in an extremely unimpressive story. Winick’s story has been mediocre and his dialogue terribly generic. If you passed on getting this maxi-series then don’t worry. You definitely aren’t missing anything good.