Comic Book Review: Trials of Shazam #5

The Revolution has been less and less impressed with Trials of Shazam with each new issue. Winick is dangerously close to totally flaming out on this maxi-series. I was worried with DC entrusting the re-imagining of Captain Marvel to Judd Winick. Winick runs real hot and cold with me. And one of Winick’s biggest weaknesses is his trying to make his stories just a little too hip and trendy.

Unfortunately, that is definitely what is happening to Trials of Shazam. Is it possible that Winick can turn the tide and deliver a quality read with Trials of Shazam #5? It is possible, but I’m not counting on it. Let’s do this review.

Creative Team
Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Howard Porter

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We start with Achilles and Freddy battling with the pig demon warriors. Achilles says that he is going to go try and stop the Hate Empath Demon while Freddy holds off the pig demon warriors. Achilles tells Freddy that Freddy’s gun is enchanted and it will not run out of ammo as long as Freddy’s heart lets it. Achilles gives Freddy a Banishment Stone and tells him to keep the pig warriors at bay until Freddy can use the Stone to send off this small army of pig warriors back to limbo.

We cut to Sabina taking the Bow of Lucifer Bingarten from one of her pig warrior. It should be sufficient to take down Achilles. We shift to Achilles brawling with the giant Hate Empath Demon. We then cut back to Sabina shooting an arrow from the mystic bow. The arrow pierces Achilles’ heel. (Naturally.) The Hate Empath Demon then slashes the wounded Achilles with a giant sword.

Freddy screams in anger and uses the Banishment Stone to send all of the pig warrior demons to limbo. All that is left is Sabina and the Hate Empath Demon. Sabina comments that her work is done. That it would be difficult for Freddy to pass this trial considering that he let a god get killed. With that, Sabina leaves the scene.

We shift to Freddy running to the fallen Achilles. Achilles orders Freddy to kill the Hate Empath Demon. Achilles tells Freddy to use the power. To get inside and call on the power. That Freddy must face the fear and spit on it. That a soldier has to have the battle and the courage to end the mission. With that, Achilles dies.

Freddy runs over to the Hate Empath Demon and gets its attention. Freddy says Shazam and turns back into his vulnerable crippled form. Freddy then jumps into the Hate Empath Demon’s mouth. Freddy falls into the Hate Empath’s stomach. Freddy then panics when he realizes that he can’t breathe inside the stomach of the demon. That if he can’t speak then he can’t say “Shazam.” Freddy then calms down and says that he can bring it. That he can feel it. That the power is him. The Will is his. The magic is his. Freddy then says “Shazam!”

A giant lightning bolt comes crashing down onto the Hate Empath Demon and splits the Hate Empath in half. Freddy steps out of the disemboweled Hate Empath. Freddy sees Achilles’ body and realizes that he failed his trial. Zareb then approaches Freddy and informs him that Freddy has another trial to tackle.

Freddy responds that he failed this trial. That it is over. Zareb tells Freddy that he is wrong. That courage is intangible. That the power of Achilles is one of near invulnerability. That Freddy displayed the necessary courage when he literally jumped into the belly of the beast.

Freddy then rips off his shirt and sees the red Captain Marvel shirt complete with gold thunder bolt on the chest. Zareb then tells Freddy to not worry about Achilles. That old soldiers never die.

We cut to a new officer reporting for duty at a military base in Mali, Africa. The new officer is a black guy with the Achilles’ tattoo across his eye. And so Achilles has been re-born. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Well, Trials of Shazam #5 was another disappointing read. That doesn’t mean that there wasn’t some bright spots in this issue. This was certainly a fast paced issue that offered the reader plenty of action. If you enjoy a brawl filled issue, then you would certainly enjoy this issue.

I loved it when Freddy ripped off his shirt and revealed the Captain Marvel shirt underneath it with its gold lightning bolt gleaming in the son. That was a pretty cool moment.

I really dig Howard Porter’s artwork. I totally understand that his style of art is going to run very hot and cold with readers. Any time an artist has a distinct style there are going to be plenty of people turned off by it. Not me. I love his heavy lined style of art. I think Porter creates a very unique looking comic book. Porter’s art is vibrant and dynamic. The character practically leap off the page. Porter’s art has been by far the most interesting aspect of this mini-series.

The Bad: Let’s see Mercury and Hercules are Roman Gods. Atlas, Achilles and Zeus are Greek Gods. Solomon is Jewish. That makes all of those characters white men. And we all know that white men are pretty much persona non grata in the current DC Universe. And so far, we have gotten a female Solomon and a Hispanic Achilles and a black Achilles. Hmm, I think I see a trend here.

For Winick to feel that he has to re-imagine these white men as with women or men from different minority groups is insulting to the cultures that spawned these characters. I stand by the assertion that if these were Aztec, Asian or African gods that DC would most certainly not have re-imagined them as white men or any other race other than the one that the gods originated from.

Believe me, I totally understand the need for diversity in the DC Universe. And the DC Universe suffers from an alarming lack of quality Hispanic and Asian heroes. However, this is not the route to go in order to create “diversity.” As a Hispanic male, did I need Achilles to be represented as a Hispanic male in order to increase my interest in this story? Um…no. What I need to increase my interest in this story is good writing.

No, what DC needs to do is to invest the time and effort in creating brand new Hispanic and Asian heroes rather than stomping all over long established and honored existing characters.

I find Winick’s re-imagining of the world of Shazam to be way to trendy and a bit cheesy. The idea that there are no longer any individual gods, but instead there are stations that various people occupy the role of that god is just way too goofy. This is the kind of re-make that tries to be way to modern and hip and ends up looking painfully cheesy and dated inside ten years just like that horrible re-make of Dr. Fate known as Fate.

Plus, the fact that Jeff Smith’s Shazam mini-series just came out last week doesn’t help my opinion on Winick’s Shazam. Smith does a brilliant job capturing the essence of Captain Marvel. Smith gives the reader all the necessary elements of what makes Captain Marvel special while still putting his own unique take on Captain Marvel. Smith’s incredible job on his Shazam mini-series just serves to make all the warts on Winick’s Shazam that much more obvious and noticeable.

Winick serves up plenty of uninspired and generic dialogue. The dialogue between Achilles and Freddy was as predictable and unoriginal as possible. That is the same dialogue I have heard in plenty of war movies. None of the characters have much of a personality. Winick has failed to pull off even a little bit of character development. All of the characters are flat and one-dimensional.

What is most alarming is that Freddy is about as boring and vanilla as a character can possibly be. The entire purpose of this re-imagining Captain Marvel’s character was to update him, make him more interesting and appealing to a modern comic book audience and freshen up the Captain Marvel family. Yet, when the main character is boring and uninteresting then the re-make is doomed to fail.

Winick seems to miss the forest for the trees. The most important aspect of freshening up Captain Marvel’s character to make him more appealing to the modern comic book audience is not trying to see trendy by re-imagining the Greek and Roman Gods.

No, the most important aspect is creating a fully developed and intriguing personality for Freddy Freeman. To create a complex Freddy that has enough substance and weight in order to allow him to assume his rightful place as one of the major players in the DC Universe.

Captain Marvel is a character that has tons of potential. Captain Marvel has a long and storied history that rivals that of the holy trinity of the DCU in Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman. There is no reason that Captain Marvel cannot assume his rightful place as a major player in the DC Universe.

Even though we got plenty of action, I still wasn’t all that impressed with the fight scenes. Achilles getting killed and then being re-born was painfully predictable. The fight between Freddy and the Hate Empath was also predictable.

Maybe Winick should stop trying to be trendy and hip and concentrate on the unglamorous side of writing. You know, things like good plotting, well crafted dialogue and strong character development.

Overall: Trials of Shazam #5 was another uninspired read. Winick gets worse and worse with each issue. That is very disappointing. I had high hopes for this Shazam mini-series. I was completely open to Billy assuming the role of the Wizard while Freddy assumed the role as Captain Marvel. I don’t mind change and if it is done well then change can be a great way to re-invigorate a stagnate character. However, Winick has completely botched what could have been an excellent opportunity to re-establish Captain Marvel as one of DC’s big guns.

3 Comments

  1. I don’t have a comic shop in a million miles of my location, so your reviews are all I have of this right now.

    Personally, I’d prefer hip and trendy to people trying to be “too epic.” If they try to get something too over the top then we are stuck wondering why they tried to go so over the top. At least with the trndy angle there is a chance we can see something we can relate to rather than trying to figure out what our tiny little place in this big universe is.

    Just my two cents. Keep up the reviews of this, these are my favorite super heroes.

  2. Yay! I also might have a determination to see the change through since I am such a huge Marvel fan.

    Updating them and making them all less cheesy is something I wanted to see for a long time. I dabble in writing and was about to undertake the effort myself, but I have no artist (alas) and would probably have to use novel form to get the job done.

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