Comic Book Review: The Trials of Shazam! #1

Trials of Shazam is a title that the Revolution has been very curious to read for quite some time. I have always thought that the Marvel Family were great characters with tons of potential. I have also thought that DC has continually mishandled these characters and failed to establish them as major players in the DCU. Captain Marvel is so much more than a Superman “clone.” I actually think that Captain Marvel is potentially a vastly more interesting character than Superman. Judd Winick’s writing is hot and cold for me, but I’ll keep an open mind with this new direction that Winick wants to take the Marvel Family. Let’s crank out this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Howard Porter

Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: This issue starts with some thugs arriving near their headquarters with a truck full of captured children tied up and gagged. One of them is Billy Batson. At 15, he is the oldest of all the captive children. The thugs want them for some sacrifice that calls for the blood of virgins. One of the thugs pulls Billy out of the truck, un-gags him and asks him his age. Billy says “Shazam!” and it is officially on. The two thugs respond by imbuing themselves with an Altarian demonic transmogrification spell. They morph into two ‘roided out monsters. Captain Marvel punches one of them through the air and into their secret temple.

We cut to the transformed monster that landed in their secret temple. He calls out for one of his buddies who comes running to help him. The beaten thug tells his friend that Captain Marvel is here. This causes his friend to whip out his sword and claim that the sacrifice must be made now. That the great To’ Lott requires an offering even if its blood is far from pure. With that the man slices and dices the beaten thug.

We shift back to Captain Marvel putting a whupping on the other transformed thug. Suddenly, we see a giant Godzilla-sized fire breathing frog appear from the secret temple. Captain Marvel appropriately responds that “That is one big frog!”

We then cut to 23 hours ago where Zatanna (In top hat, tails, stocking and heels) is battling some demon. Suddenly, a massive bolt of lighting fries the demon and Captain Marvel appears over the demon’s body. Zatanna asks Captain Marvel what is going on with all the wild demons on the loose. Captain Marvel responds that the world has changed and what Zatanna once knew has become refashioned. That the books of magic have been rewritten.

Captain Marvel then flies back to the Rock of Eternity. Captain Marvel turns back into Billy. Even as Billy, with the merest thought, he can control the Rock of Eternity and its magic to transform it into any shape he desires. Like a comfy den complete with reclining chair and wide screen TV. Suddenly, the Rock of Eternity alerts Billy to evil magic at work in Norway.

We then shift back to the present. Captain Marvel is getting his butt kicked by the Gamera sized frog. Captain Marvel shows off his new powers and uses his lightning punch to unleash numerous bolts of lightning into the underbelly of the frog. The frog transforms back into the thug. Captain Marvel rounds up all of the bad guys and is full of himself. He thinks that when the world of magic becomes unbalanced that Captain Marvel will be there to set it right. That he can do this. That he can protect this world.

Captain Marvel goes to free the captive children still tied up in the truck. He decides they would be less afraid of Billy Batson so he says “Shazam” to transform. An insanely massive bolt of lightning hits him and we see Captain Marvel in a white version of his costume. He has pale skin and long white hair. He asks “What’s happening?” End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Trials of Shazam was a pretty nice read. I enjoyed this comic. I thought that Winick delivered a nicely paced first issue. He laid the foundation for this new world of magic and the new role that Captain Marvel is to play in it. He gave us some action and then ended the issue with a nice hook.

I liked the beginning scene. When Billy transforms into Captain Marvel with a violently powerful bolt of lightning with the dramatic one page splash shot of Captain Marvel, I instantly wanted to cheer. That is how you make a grand entrance! The ensuing brawl between Captain Marvel and the two transformed thugs was well paced and interesting. Throw in a Rodan sized Frog and you know you have a winning formula for entertainment.

I liked seeing Zatanna in this issue. I was glad that she was sporting her classic costume. This scene provided for some more action and also served as the vehicle for Winick to give the readers some hints as to the new world that is the DCU. That the world has changed and the books of magic have been rewritten. Winick is taking advantage of Infinite Crisis to give us a brand new world with a whole new set of rules. This scene serves as the foundation for this new world of magic that the Marvel Family will have to find their place in. This scene worked for me and piqued my interest.

I liked the scene back at the Rock of Eternity. It is cool to see Billy commanding so much magic and being able to refashion the rock to whatever shape and setting that he desires. At first, I was not happy with DC killing Shazam. And I was even less thrilled with the idea of Billy taking Shazam’s place. However, I think that this new role might lead for an even more interesting Billy Batson. I’m definitely more interested in seeing what Winick has in store for Billy’s character.

The final scene was well done. After defeating the toad and all the bad guys, Billy if full of confidence. For the first time in a long time, Billy knows his role as Captain Marvel. That he can do this and protect the world. Captain Marvel has long suffered from not having a clear role or purpose in the DCU. DC has basically handled him as just another Superman clone who fights cheesy super villains. It never did Captain Marvel justice and always made him look like a second rate Superman with second rate villains. Winick clearly used this scene to fully establish the new Captain Marvel and his new purpose and role in the DCU. This is where Winick lays out his vision for how he sees Captain Marvel in the new DCU. Finally, we may get a coherent and strong direction and purpose for Captain Marvel and a role that he is confident in playing. Plus, this is a role that takes him out of the realm of being a Superman “clone.” This scene helps to highlight the vast differences between the two characters so that Captain Marvel can stand on his own merit.

I really enjoyed the ending. That is a great way to hook the reader into getting the next issue. Ending the story with an unexpected twist. Here we have Captain Marvel transformed into a white suited alabaster skinned version of himself with long white hair. I actually think he looks kind of cool this way. I’m definitely interested to see where Winick goes with this plotline.

Winick obviously enjoys the Marvel Family and likes the various characters. I know many people will hate Winick because he wants to modernize the Marvel Family. I know that many old schools Captain Marvel fans will despise this version of Captain Marvel, because Winick doesn’t want to go back to the silly, light hearted and campy roots of Captain Marvel. I’m ok with it. It is 2006 and I have no problem with Winick wanting to update a character that has struggled mightily garnering fan interest or finding his own place in the DCU. I’m certainly willing to give Winick a chance to show me his vision for Captain Marvel in the new DCU.

I think that this issue had a nice flow to it and was well paced. The dialogue was nicely done and I like how Winick writes Billy Batson. The dialogue had a nice balance of humor and seriousness. I also think that Winick did a nice job portraying this newly motivated Captain Marvel.

Now let’s talk about Howard Porter’s artwork. Some people may not enjoy Porter’s heavy lined and painted work. It may be too “static” for some. Not for me.
I thought it was jaw dropping stunning art. Just gorgeous. Some of the pages just mesmerized me. Porter’s artwork did an incredible job brining Winick’s story to life and injected plenty of emotion into the story. Captain Marvel is such a visually appealing and interesting character. His mode of transformation and his massive physic lends perfectly to some impressive looking scenes. And Porter definitely took advantage of that fact.

The Bad: I don’t have any complaints with this issue.

Overall: I rather enjoyed Trials of Shazam #1. This was a nicely paced and well written issue with some good action and a nice hook at the end. Winick lays the foundation with this issue for the rest of the eleven issues in this maxi-series. Porter delivered some powerful artwork that truly complimented Winick’s story and vividly brought it to life. I am interested with the new role of Captain Marvel in the new DCU and can’t wait to see what happens next. I usually don’t like straight up magic based comic books. However, this title has enough super hero action so it makes for a nice blend of a magic and a super hero based storyline.

I’d definitely recommend checking out this title even if you aren’t a long time Captain Marvel fan. In fact, people who aren’t familiar with Captain Marvel may enjoy this title more than long time Captain Marvel fans.

1 Comments

  1. Good Review
    Think I’ll pick this up

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