Writer: Tim Sheridan
Art: Clayton Henry, Marcelo Maiolo, and Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: July 20th, 2021
Billy Batson arrived to TEEN TITANS ACADEMY searching for explanations and answers. His power is on the fritz… but why? What has cut Billy, as well as the rest of his adopted family, off from the Power of SHAZAM? Let’s dive into the inaugural issue of SHAZAM! #1 by Tim Sheridan as readers begin to discover what’s been making Billy’s powers substantially more erratic. And, is his newly acquired influx of power connected to the absence of the wizard? Only time will tell as Billy and his friends head out on a crazy voyage that’ll transform them all like never before.
TEEN TITANS ACADEMY
Let me begin by shrugging off a bit of the exterior glow that may be surrounding this issue. For those of you unaware, SHAZAM! isn’t on the JUSTICE LEAGUE… Black Adam is. Billy Batson/ SHAZAM! is currently enrolled in TEEN TITANS ACADEMY, which comes across as a bit deflating to some. With his pedigree, many wonder why he’s not on the League and placed on the C- Squad with the kids. Granted, he IS technically a kid, however, with his powers and credentials, fans have wondered… why? Well, Sheridan does an amazing job providing a bit of insight into that question and packs it all within these pages. Meaning, if you’re not reading TEEN TITANS ACADEMY, you’ll swim upstream perfectly fine. However, it could benefit you to have some background that’s been established in that series, yet not required.
Not only does Sheridan use this opening installment to build a strong foundation for the Academy, but he also uses it as a platform to showcasing Billy’s struggles causing the reader to better connect to the character. Furthermore, it’s these conflicts that instantly begin to shape Billy. Sure, he’s still as headstrong as ever. Yet, now he’s pushing his family aside in search of answers with the internal conflict as the linchpin for the comic. Nevertheless, this is where many readers may get off the train.
You see, Sheridan’s literally creating a SHAZAM! title without SHAZAM!. Sure, he was in the issue but 3.5 out of 20 pages of the comic had our hero on it. Many will feel jaded after searching for their favorite hero and coming up short. However, I counter that argument by reassuring fans that Sheridan is building something bigger than an action comic here. He’s fortifying Billy with flaws and internal struggles for fans to sympathize with him more. Plus, oftentimes readers separate the two characters. Regardless, Billy Batson IS SHAZAM! like Bruce Banner is the HULK. Sometimes, to make the HULK stronger, the writer needs to dive deeper into Banner as well as his internal conflicts. Well, that’s what Sheridan appears to be doing with Billy.
Additionally, SHAZAM! #1 proves DC COMICS upper brass is moving towards cohesive continuity, which this reviewer is ecstatic about. For so long, fans of multiple comics would read so many books at the company that simply didn’t gel. Sure, they’re in the same “universe” but only by title alone. It’s as if writers and creative teams just weren’t playing well together. That’s all changed since this INFINITE FRONTIER began. And, look no further than SHAZAM! #1 to see the proof in the pudding.
This series is running concurrently with TEEN TITANS ACADEMY as well as JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK. Heck, SUPERMAN Jr (love that by the way) even makes an appearance connecting that Avenue of comic development. Discussions of the GREEN LANTERN Central Power Battery, as well as the developing elements within THE FLASH and the Speed Force, are all dropped into this issue. Everyone is playing well together and ultimately making the hardcore fans feel like everything they read is important. This helps fans to become more invested in a book like SHAZAM! that doesn’t feel like it should be a big deal yet now becomes something special.
Clayton Henry’s art style has this sense of pristine polish over the characters that makes them look crisp and clear. The characters are drawn straight with little curves, yet oftentimes wide and impressive. Look no further than the outstanding double-page spread of SHAZAM! flying across both pages like a comet early in the issue or SUPERMAN Jr (I just love that) doing the very same towards its conclusion to capture the remarkable detail and vibrant intensity this creative team brings to the series.
SHAZAM! #1 gave me a familiar feeling like I’ve seen this art before. It’s almost like a new-age version of Carmine Infantino meets Wayne Boring with a modern twist. Granted, the heavy outlining and rendering of characters comes across like a misplaced Sharpie at times. However, I think it’s more a stylistic choice that Henry enjoys utilizing. I remember this very same strategy with his run on THE FLASH and how saturated the linework became taking me out of the story. Nevertheless, he’s severely toned that expression down since his FLASH days nor did I feel that way throughout this issue.
This isn’t your typical SHAZAM! title. However, Sheridan shrugs off the normal constraints and begins to shape multiple aspects of the character through some internal conflicts. Sure, Billy’s heading on a voyage. However, it appears as though Sheridan’s end goal is to strengthen the character and ultimately send him on a journey of maturity. Furthermore, Henry and his team provide a fabulous balance that captivates readers and lures them deep within the narrative even without intense action sequences. With little page count dedicated to SHAZAM!, I implore fans to hang in there, give Sheridan and his team time to develop the character and trust the process. Let me know what you think, have a great week, and God bless!