Shazam is having a bit of a problem with his powers. More specifically, Billy Batson can’t seem to keep his powers on for long or they turn off without warning. It’s an interesting direction for the character, and with the second issue out today, things get even hairier as he goes to Hell. Writer Tim Sheridan had a lot to say on the AIPT Comics podcast about this issue, which fleshes out Hell and also contains plenty of puns.
This issue opens with Billy Batson and Dane Constantine entering the Underrealm, which looks like Las Vegas on fire. It even comes with resorts like the “Hellagio”, and there are demons everywhere. Even though they are there for the Rock of Eternity, they soon find themselves gambling and ordering drinks. Billy says it best when he says, “FYI this place is full of distractions designed to corrupt and ensure that if you aren’t already damned, you will be by the time you leave.” That sums up their adventure in this issue, which has them getting in a bit of trouble, meeting the “manager” of the Underrealm, and nearly losing their lives.
The key to this issue isn’t Billy at all, but Dane and a new character they meet along the way. Sheridan is doing some interesting things with Hell here, which has never really been explored too thoroughly in DC Comics. The preview for this issue promises a huge revelation, and it sure brings it to the last page, but it’s made more compelling thanks to the dynamics of how Hell works and what we learn about it in this issue. Ultimately, Billy is a surrogate for readers as he’s the most in the dark about this place and that works well to draw the reader in.
One gripe with the issue overall is the lack of conflict or fights. There’s a scene where Billy and Dane are forcibly sat down, and Shazam gets to do some punching, but the real conflict doesn’t drop till the final page. The adventures in Hell itself are fun; it’s just that a superhero book like this could use a little more direct threat on our heroes’ lives.
Much like other superhero classics, it’s great fun to see Billy without his powers. He’s still a hero, and Sheridan and artist Clayton Henry prove that through his actions, bravery, and heart in the issue. Henry makes you feel for Billy, who is doing his best knowing full well he can’t become Shazam. He’s put through different situations and you feel like you’re there with Billy thanks to the strong facial expressions. There are also some incredible establishing shots with great details in the environments which bring Underworld to life.
When Shazam does show up, he appears in an incredible full-page splash that utilizes the light in his chest to full effect. Marcelo Maiolo gets to show off his colors with a ton of neon and glowing light thanks to the setting, and this full-page splash is another example of that. There’s also some great use of glowing effects, be it yellow or green from the casino’s slot machines. The book is slick looking from cover to cover.
Shazam! #2 is a great second issue that drops our hero into a very unfamiliar place, even to readers. Thanks to some interesting world building, slick art, and dazzling use of color, you shouldn’t miss it. Shazam! offers the kind of adventure only comics can deliver.
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