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The Trials of Shazam! #1
posted July 6, 2006


Creators: Judd Winick, Howard Porter
Publishing Information: DC Comics, comic book, 32 pages, $2.99, October 2006
Ordering Numbers:

This comic depressed the crap out of me. The latest DC version of CC Beck and Otto Binder's iconic Captain Marvel, carried over from the Brave New World comic I now know was a one-shot, reads like some awful creator-owned project from a late-'80s Scott Rosenberg black and white comic than a major series hosting one of the five or six classic superhero characters. It's like watching a classic '40s film star who excelled at screwballs and light comedies doing a cruddy turn on The Love Boat opposite Audra Lindley. It's not the tone -- because who doesn't like Burt Lancaster in Atlantic City? -- but the quality. In Judd Winick's plodding script, Captain Marvel (with bonus lightning powers) seems to be operating as some sort of magical white knight, boasting a knowledge of some but not all of the magical opponents he meets and paired for a few pages with the fishnet-boasting, backwards-talking, queen of the 1970s back-up serial, Zatanna. It's hard to remember the plot particulars, to be honest, when you keep putting a comic down, but there's a mysterious opponent and an agenda and, well... that's about all I remember. One-time JLA artist Howard Porter's painted-looking art -- think a Hampton brother that doesn't get talked about -- matches the dour goings-on rather well, and that's not a compliment. There are a few pages of the character walking around, sitting and standing up again that looked like they managed to bore even the artist.

I'm not one to say that characters have to stay the same in order to be effective, but this reads half-assed, a generic mood, plot and tone from ten years ago or more infused with little to no excitement, like the creative people are being punished. There aren't even any sparks from rubbing the old kind of Captain Marvel story up against these grim and gritty elements. It's hard to convey just how thoroughly the comic fails to make me want to read a future issue, even if I got cash money for every page completed. For example, a fight scene near the end is done in a tight grid and with an unnatural, intrusive voiceover. Who does that? It's like watching the bombing scene in Pearl Harbor as directed by Henry Jaglom. The kicker at the end of the story is an out-of-nowhere plot twist with a visual element that looks kind of cool, but there's no affection for the character at this point, no interest in what happens to him, and no trust in the creative team to wring something compelling out of it. Really, this project should have been stopped at someone's desk.