Friday, November 13, 2015
Justice League: The Darkseid War – Shazam #1 Review and *SPOILERS*
You’re So Vain, You Probably Think These Gods Are About You
Written By: Steve Orlando
Art By: Scott Kolins, Romulo Fajardo, Jr., Steve Wands
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: November 11, 2015
*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*
You can’t understand why Apple Jacks doesn’t taste like apples and why Mountain Dew tastes like calves’ urine and that’s just the way we like it! See, we don’t worship your dusty old gods from before there was even television, we worship a bunch of new gods that are totally cool and radical to the max! And if you don’t like it, you can just stuff it because Shazam is keeping it real like a slippery eel. Confused? Good! That’s the way we like it, old man or old woman! The kids of today are indignant and we will have our say! Read on to find out what that might be!
In the interest of full disclosure, and as revealed in my reviews of previous issues in this series, I have not been reading the main Justice League title. You can read my review of Justice League: The Darkseid War – Batman #1 to find out what and why, but the result is that I am in a position to judge these books on their own merits, without the baggage of Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok’s run. Sure, I know that they killed Darkseid and members of the Justice League have fused with various New Gods to become gods themselves, but I’ve done my best to judge these comics partially on their understandability. Despite being tie-ins, I think they should be reasonably accessible and enjoyable to new readers. Call me crazy!
Shazam is spewed from some crackling space sphincter into a neighborhood in South Philadelphia called the “Devil’s Pocket.” (I looked it up; it’s a real place.) From the smoldering crater he crated, Shazam contends with a bunch of voices chattering away in his head, which are revealed to us as carrotless word balloons employing differently-colored and styled lettering. It actually works better than one might expect it to, and Steve Orlando’s penchant for over-the-top dialogue is put to good effect when being spewed by a bunch of arrogant gods. Among them is the Wizard Shazam, the one who gave young and impudent Billy Batson the power to become the new Shazam, who was thought dead but seems to have gotten over it.
Shazam is annoyed by all the internal monologues and tries to escape, only to find he no longer has the power of flight and speed! The Wizard, seen as a withered-looking yellow speech balloon and shaky type, explains that Shazam’s normal link to his six gods (well, five gods and one Solomon, I suppose) was severed with Darkseid’s death so the Wiz scrambled to stuff some other gods into Batson because he said so, goddamnit, don’t keep asking him “why” all the time! And in doing so, he had to go for the bargain brand gods that give you a shitty attitude instead of awesome super powers. Who are these new gods, you didn’t ask? Well, let’s find out! Shazam Gods Roll Call!
S for S’ivaa, Destroyer of Worlds, who lends Shazam his strength! So in the expanded Kirbyverse, in between the death of the Old Gods and ascension of the New Gods, the universe was inhabited by a series of immense monsters, the last of which was S’ivaa. His power is to destroy the entire fucking universe by dancing. What the fuck? I thought these were supposed to be the B-list gods? Where do you go from here?
H is for H’ronmeer, the Old Martian God, who lends Shazam his fire! You sometimes see the Martian Manhunter invoke H’ronmeer, who killed every green Martian except for J’onn J’onzz with a psychic imprint of fire that made them all burst into flames. Seems like the result of his hangin’ with Mr. Batson is that Shazam can throw flame balls or something? Whatever.
A is for Anapel, the Slavic Goddess of Reincarnation, who lends Shazam her compassion! The Koryak people of Siberia have believed in reincarnation for many generations, and that babies are imbued with the spirits of dead relatives. Determining which one involves an invocation of Anapel, or “Little Grandmother,” who can be reached via a stone on a string suspended above the newborn. Names of family members are called out, and when the stone starts spinning you know you’ve hit jackpot. So…maybe now Shazam has the power to do palm readings and tarot cards?
Z is for Zonuz, Yuga Khan…and we’ll get to him a little later on.
A is for Ate, the Greek Goddess of impetuousness and mischief, who lends Shazam her boldness! Said to be the daughter of Zeus and Eris, the goddess of chaos, Ate was tossed down to Earth by Zeus because of some snit or another, and spends eternity screwing with the minds of mortal men. Which is exactly what you want in a superhero, the powers of a chick that plays head games! Stay tuned to see him put Lex Luthor in the “friend zone!”
M is for Mamaragan…and we’ll get to him later, too.
So Shazam has to go through a gauntlet of his new bosses, and each one greets him in his or own ethereal domain which is a nice exercise for Scott Kolins. Having been teleported to Godland by uttering his name, he greets each one as Billy Batson, but still acts like a total teenaged prick to them, shouting, “You don’t know me! None of you know me! You’re not my real dad!” before running to his bedroom, slamming the door, and tearing all the posters off of the walls. Each god warns Billy that at the end of this he will meet Zonuz, who is fighting the Wizard in an attempt to get his Staff of Living Lightning because he’s sort of a prick. We learn that Zonuz is the father of Darkseid, ready to assume his dead son’s mantle as soon as he gets the staff because that was the one thing holding him back for some reason. He gets the staff, and then Billy acts all smart-mouthed and gives a bunch of backtalk before slamming the Shazam lightning into Zonuz a few times and fucking him up. At the end, we see Shazam aiding the broken form of the Wizard, aka Mamaragan, who explains that he went down to the Social Security office and got a legal name change so he could be part of this whole thing.
This issue works surprisingly well, and Steve Orlando’s pompous dialogue comes across almost normal when voiced by omniscient and omnipotent gods. There are a few bits that seem taken from the Arnold Schwarznegger School of Quotable Writing, but it all worked for the most part. The real star of this issue is the artwork by Scott Kolins and color work by Romulo Fajardo, Jr. that is absolutely phenomenal. All of these tie-ins have been somewhat inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, meant mainly to position each character where necessary for the next issue of Justice League, but this one I would say might just be worth it if you like gawking at artwork alone. Perhaps ironically, this story is the least accessible to new readers of all the tie-ins I’ve reviewed thus far, if only because the concept of Shazam is complex enough without giving his nominal acronym a bunch of new gods to learn about. But if you’re a fan of great art and think precocious teenaged rebellion is totally righteous and outta sight, then give this a look.
Bits and Pieces:
Billy Batson is a teenaged asshole but he makes some good points as he copes with becoming the God of Gods. You don’t need to drive your father’s Oldsmobile. You can carve your own path. And part of that path includes a meet-and-greet with ethereal manifestations of personality traits and life events, and that’s okay. The story is just okay, but the incredible artwork of Scott Kolins is worth recommending at least giving this a look in-store.