There are times when a new piece of information is added to a character’s back story where the best thing possible is probably to just quietly ignore it. I’m not saying to wipe it out of existence, but if it’s something that doesn’t need to ever be mentioned again (you know, like Coco the cook in “The Golden Girls,” or the pets in “The Brady Bunch”) then it’s probably a good idea. Which is a roundabout way of saying that a “Shazam!” special with the demon Blaze as the villain still feels more than a little wrong.
Before we go any further, I’m going to point out that writer Eric Wallace wasn’t the writer who came up with the idea that Blaze is the daughter of the wizard Shazam. It’s a concept that he inherited. But it still makes me wonder why he thought this was a great character hook on which to bring back Freddy Freeman, Billy Batson, and Mary Batson. The poor Captain Marvel characters – all of whom were designed as light-hearted, more pure souls – have been dragged through so much darkness and nastiness that I don’t think it was any small coincidence that all of them save Freddy were either depowered or turned into stone so that a virtual “hands off” cooling down period could occur.
But at any rate, Blaze is back, trying to get Mary to do evil things in exchange for her Mary Marvel powers restored. And if you can get past the general sense that these are characters that shouldn’t be interacting with one another (at least it’s not Sugar and Spike going up against Mr. Zsasz), the comic itself isn’t badly written. It’s a rather standard superhero fight, up until the part where the gruesome impaling of people starts happening. Well, that and the fact that it’s also not a complete story, instead just a lead-in to an upcoming issue of “Titans.” But Wallace tries to insert some hopeful moments in the script, which is better than all grim and dark, all the time.
On the bright side, Cliff Richards’ art looks quite nice here, probably some of my favorite pages of his to date. The art looks sleek and clean, and I appreciate the amount of detail put into not only his characters but also the backgrounds and settings. The script itself may be a bit of a downer in places, but Richards makes it as cheerful as one can considering what it’s illustrating.
“Shazam!” is, at the end of the day, a bit of a disappointment. It doesn’t feel like the right tactic for these characters, and getting a big ol’ “To Be Continued” at the end of the issue is slightly annoying. At least the “Wonder Girl” one-shot earlier this month had a conclusion (even though the new character will move on to “Teen Titans” shortly), but this comic in many ways just stops. The finished product is told with skill, but the core concept behind it feels flawed.