Review – Shazam! #4: Wild Games in the Magiclands

Shazam #4
Shazam! #4 cover, via DC Comics.

Shazam! #4 – Geoff Johns, Writer; Dale Eaglesham, Marco Santucci, Artists; Michael Atiyeh, Colorist

Ratings:

Ray – 8.5/10

Corrina: MagicLands Less Interesting Than Billy’s Regular Life

Ray: Like I said in past reviews, Geoff Johns’ “tell” on his comics is a big, expansive mythology and he’s wasted no time setting one up for Shazam. This mysterious adventure through the seven Magiclands has split up the Shazam family and sent them all on their own individual quests – and I think that’s for the best, as the six members of the family in the overstuffed pair off and get more individual attention. Well, with one exception – that would be Mary, as my ongoing issue with this comic continues. Billy and Mary are the only two stuck in the Funlands with the deranged King Kid, and because Mary’s about to turn eighteen she’s been sent to to the dungeons to work as a slave to keep the Funlands running. The reveal of how King Kid treats the kids who grow older officially establishes him as a vile villain and likely puts the kibosh on any chance of redemption. It’s also a bit too dark a twist for a title that has overall been one of Johns’ more fun and light books.

Fortunately, the other characters’ adventures are more in line with the series’ tone. Pedro and Eugene, the two least-established members of the family, head off to the Gamelands where they find themselves involved in a never-ending battle to score enough points to get out. This segment has a fun Tron-inspired vibe, but it doesn’t stand out like Darla and Freddie’s story. They find themselves in the Wildlands, a world run by talking animals that seems to be a cross between Zootopia and Fahrenheit 451 – and one that introduces an iconic Shazam character in a new way. It’s good to see Johns embracing the history of this property, and the arrival of one of Johns’ best characters going back to his JSA days makes me very happy. But Mary’s only scene in this issue being a shot of her chained up and in a literal muzzle – not great. She’s one of the most important Shazam characters and she deserves a lot better than she’s gotten from DC for the last decade or so.

Shazam #4
Enter Talky Tawny. Via DC Comics.

Corrina: This title is frustrating to me. Having set up an excellent “regular world” situation for the Shazam Famly and all the kids, it then took a turn into fantasy, and it remains there, with only glimpses of that regular life. I find all these magical worlds far less interesting than the foster home and how all the kids cope with secret identities in which they appear as adults.

That’s the fun of Shazam, right, seeing a kid in an adult’s body deal with things above their maturity level?

But, instead, Johns has set up a whole series of different magical worlds that are, well, predictable. In Gamelands, you have to beat the main guy. In the kid fantasy land, you have to remain a kid or be subject to an awful fate.

Now, Wildlands has a bit more potential. The opening segment, featuring someone walking up, as the panels gradually reveal their true nature as a humanized tiger, is terrific, and a great way to reintroduce Tawky Tawny to the title. (Again, though, it seems predictable that the kids who are captured will encounter the tiger that tries not to eat people.)  However, the art throughout is very good, as Bennett has a chance to draw video game characters, a whole host of humanized animals, the pits of Funland, and then the human segment back at the foster home.

Black Adam’s appearance was inevitable, given Johns fondness for the character, but he’s part of what brings in yet another whole host of adult themes (like, say, being enslaved and ball-gagged) that might be too adult for what should be a fun and all-ages title.

I guess that’s why this isn’t part of Wonder Comics.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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