Instead of merely being the backup story, Shazam takes center stage in the pages of Justice League this month, culminating in a final showdown with Black Adam and The Seven Deadly Sins. This issue is an essential part of any DC fan’s collection, as it reintroduces the “Marvel Family” to The New 52 and to a new generation of readers. Well… that isn’t exactly accurate, since Captain Marvel is no longer the moniker of The Big Red Cheese and he’s now known as Shazam, but the main aspects are still there. Shazam himself, Freddy, Mary, and the rest of Billy Batson’s adopted family are all here to take on Black Adam and his demonic forces.
Writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank’s reimagining of Shazam has been consistently entertaining ever since the backup stories began in this series. Each installment has been just exciting enough to leave me wanting more and this full-sized chapter was definitely worth the wait! It has everything a fan of Shazam could ever want, updated for The New 52, yet still recognizable enough to please longtime fans. Even Billy’s tiger friend, Tawny, makes a special appearance, although not in his usual way.
While there are still some questions by the end of the story, I was satisfied enough by everything that transpired this issue to forgive any holes still left to fill. For the sake of this review, however, I will elaborate on these questions. For one thing, it isn’t exactly made clear if Billy’s “gift” to his adopted siblings will be permanent or if this was just a one time event. I’m hoping it’s the former since I miss seeing the “Marvel Family” in the DCU. If they are indeed permanent, it’s obvious that they will have to come up with different names since Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel won’t cut it anymore. There is one humorous scene where Freddy refers to himself as “King Shazam,” which was an obvious wink to his real-life connection to Elvis Presley. (Google it. You’ll see.) I’m glad Johns was respectful enough to retain that part of Freddy’s legacy. If this is the beginning of The New 52 “Marvel Family,” as the ending suggests, then I’m guessing the word “Shazam” will probably replace the “Marvel” part of their names. I’m okay with that.
All of the key ingredients of the Shazam mythology that fans love are in this issue. I do have one gripe, though, and it concerns Black Adam’s fate at the end of this story. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but Adam’s future as Shazam’s arch enemy is left in question. We are, however, reintroduced to another old enemy who appears to have allied himself with Dr. Sivana. Exciting things are clearly in store! After his legendary run on Green Lantern and his pre-New 52 Action Comics tenure, this is probably my favorite thing Geoff Johns has written. Certainly, it’s his best work in The New 52. Artist Gary Frank is a natural fit for Shazam and Johns’ storytelling. This is certainly some of Frank’s best work, also. If the gods favor us, perhaps we’ll get a Shazam ongoing series with both of them somewhere down the line. I know my fingers are crossed!