Another month, another peak into the Shazam backup in “Justice League!” This month, two familiar characters get their proper introduction, we get to see Dr. Sivana use his magic eye (no, not that kind), and we see a friendship forming between Billy and Freddy.
Geoff Johns has chosen to go down an interesting road with Billy Batson; he still has the good heart he had pre-“Flashpoint,” but he has lost the innocence that went along with that. A cynical Billy Batson seems to be just about the New 52iest thing DC could possibly do, and I wish they could have just left his character alone. The innocence, cheesy as it may have been, is one of the distinguishing characteristics Batson had that differentiated himself from just about everyone else. When a guy makes Clark Kent look edgy, you know he’s really something different.
Batson sneaks out of his foster home in the middle of the night to visit the Philadelphia Zoo, and to give a hamburger to Tawny, a tiger that is the “closest thing he has to family.” Now, we have seen Tawny, both in a photo with Billy’s parents, and in a drawing in Billy’s journal, but this is the first time we’ve seen Billy interact with him. Will, through his Shazam powers, Tawny again be a walking, talking tiger? That remains to be seen, but Gary Frank is able to evoke real empathy for Billy in this panel, where his posture shows just how sad this guy is.
Freddy, having followed him there, thanks Billy for defending the foster kids from the Bryers, which leads to Freddy suggesting that they go to their house to wreck some sort of havoc. This is typical teenage behavior, but again, just takes Batson further away from the innocence that was just as much a part of the character as the speed of Mercury.
From there, the book jumps over to the continuing search for Black Adam by Dr. Sivana. We see the “Magic Eye” of Sivana in action here, and thankfully Johns and Frank chose not to us the aforementioned Magic Eye artwork, since, as a dude with a lazy eye, I can’t see those. But he can see the inscription on a tomb that is a hidden to the average eye, says the magic word, and we meet Black Adam!
We actually got a better look at him in the DC Free Comic Book Day issue, but we do see, like Billy, his transformation is greeted by smoke and lightning emitting from his chest lightning bolt. They also both have hoods on their capes, a design choice I actually like. Both Black Adam here, and Billy on the cover of “Justice League” #0 appear to be slightly crazed with the power of the gods running through them. That would be an interesting choice going forward – the power of the gods makes them slightly nuts (although this was done a little bit when Billy was at the Rock of Eternity in the ‘00s).
Speaking of “Justice League” #0, that seems like the conclusion of the Shazam origin story and, potentially, the back-up feature as well. Will we see a new Shazam series later in the year, and a new back-up for “Justice League?” I suppose only time will tell, but what can be counted on is that we’ll be back next month with more stray observations about the Big Red Cheese!