The Shazam Family's Most Dangerous Member Has Been 'Infected'

shazam family infected

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Infected: King Shazam #1, by Sina Grace, Joe Bennett, Belardino Brambo, Matt Santorelli, Hi-Fi and Rob Leigh, on sale now.

As DC's Year of the Villain continues, the Batman Who Laughs has been steadily corrupting iconic heroes throughout the DC Universe as part of a bid to bring his twisted vision from the Dark Multiverse to yet another reality. One of the most prominent victims to the sneering villain's renewed rampage is Billy Batson, the orphaned teenager capable of turning into Shazam, the Earth's Mightiest Mortal. As the corrupted superhero cuts his own path around the world, one of the Shazam Family is similarly infected: Mary Bromfield.

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Mary Shazam, the former Mary Marvel before the DC Comics rebranding of the superhero, has a surprising past history of being corrupted by nefarious forces before. Created by Otto Binder and Marc Swayze in 1942's Captain Marvel Adventures #18, Mary was originally Billy's long-lost, biological sister. Separated at an early age following the tragic death of their parents, Mary was adopted by the Bromfields, later reuniting with Billy years later. She is similarly imbued with her brother's magical abilities whenever she utters the word "Shazam," resulting in her own thunderous superhero transformation.

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After the Spectre killed the Wizard Shazam and destroyed the Rock of Eternity during the events of Infinite Crisis, Mary suddenly lost her powers while Billy sought to repair the damage inflicted by becoming the latest wizard to hold the title of Shazam. Adrift from the loss of her powers and Billy's new role, Mary confronted Black Adam while the antihero was still grieving the loss of his wife Isis and brother-in-law Osiris during the events of 52. Adam transferred his powers to Mary, with the teenage superhero twisted by the darkness within Adam and further worsened by Eclipso.

Eclipso had secretly been grooming Mary to become Darkseid's newest concubine before being defeated after her machinations were revealed. Frustrated that the gods behind the power of Shazam had abandoned her, Mary accepted an offer from Darkseid to restore and boost her potential. By the events of Final Crisis, Mary had become a committed, corrupted ally of Darkseid after being possessed by his servant Desaad, infecting other heroes with the Anti-Life Equation, including Wonder Woman. After coming back to her senses, Mary is horrified by what she has done, eschewing the temptation of restoring her powers after entering a brief alliance with Black Adam and the resurrected Isis.

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Mary's background was revised extensively following the events of Flashpoint, now a foster sister of Billy and Freddy Freeman living with additional siblings and their adoptive parents in Philadelphia. Along with the rest of her siblings, Billy gave them the ability to transform into superhero alter egos by using his magic word, with Mary being the first to sense something wrong with Billy after his corruption by the Batman Who Laughs. Billy feigns vulnerability, only to use his toxin-laced spiked knuckles to infect Mary when she drops her guard, leaving her undergoing a painful transformation as he leaves to continue his onslaught through the DCU.

Historically, Mary Bromfield's occasional descents into villainy have largely been fueled by an obsessive desire to restore and increase her powers, in a DCU twist on the "woman mad with power" trope seen by superhero characters like the Scarlet Witch and Dark Phoenix. This time, her corruption is linked to compassion, extending a caring hand to her brother only to be infected as thanks for her sympathy. How this change in motivation will inform Mary's role in the DCU as the Batman Who Laughs extends his corrosive reach remains to be seen, but a classic and powerful DC superhero has just joined the cackling villain's ranks alongside her brother.

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