Jeff Loveness told a great Batman/Shazam one-shot with Shazam! #12, and is back this week in Shazam! #15. This week, there’s another one-shot story in store for readers as Billy Batson tangles with a substitute teacher and shockingly gets embroiled with her life in a very real way. This a sentimental, character-driven, and well-written issue.
This issue opens with Shazam fighting a giant robot in Japan. It’s a good intro for new and old readers alike, since it reveals how Billy is kind of clunky in his heroism, has some powers you might not have remembered, and reminds us of the endearing quality of Billy Batson. Soon he’s flying back to school and way too tired for class. Thinking a sub will go easy on him, he’s soon called out for not doing his work. Loveness sets up a story here where we’re reminded we don’t know what is going on in other people’s lives, but we should take note not to judge.
The magic of the issue occurs when Billy must save the same person who was giving him trouble in class earlier in the day. The woman has no idea it’s Billy — he’s in his Shazam form, after all — but it’s fun to see how Billy awkwardly tries to hide that fact. What’s important in all this is seeing how Billy, even as a young boy, sees in his heart of hearts that he needs to give this woman a shoulder to lean on. This leads to a touching moment later in the issue where Billy extends himself. The book does well to show us the true hero in Shazam doesn’t come from punching robot heads, but caring about others.
There are some interesting messages in this narrative. From the teacher who “has no one” to the idea of Batman doing more harm even though he’s a hero, Loveness instills some ideas in here to think about. I do wonder if he adds too many ideas in this regard, though: the book feels overstuffed with thoughtful messaging, which gets away from a singular purpose.
The art by Brandon Peterson is stellar, made to look like a million bucks by color artist Michael Atiyeh. The book is bright, adding to the wholesome nature of the hero. Fire, effects, and energy all look incredible, adding a sense of depth and awe to the hero and the action on screen. The expressions are animated and filled with life too. For a book about youthful heroism, the art shows us that joy and spark of life so well.
Shazam! is one of the most wholesome, fun, and bright books at DC Comics. Issue #15 is a great spark in how this character’s dual life as a boy and an adult hero can create unique situations that lead to warm and endearing stories.