Writer – Geoff Johns; Artist – Scott Kolins; Colors – Michael Atoyeh; Letters – Rob Leigh; Associate Editor – Andrea Shea; Editor – Mike Cotton; Group Editor – Brian Cunningham
This week, Billy Batson has entered the Darklands to keep searching for his siblings scattered across the seven Magiclands. The whole concept of Magiclands is great. The differentiation makes the reader really feel more immersed, as they experience each land, see what life would be like in each, and finally choose which they prefer. Fair to say, while the Darklands seems very appealing at first to those that love horror or Halloween, the dangerous reality baked into the very nature of this realm is something of which to be weary, a lesson that Billy Batson has to learn the hard way. It is not a land of scares, like some kind of DC Halloween Town, but more a realm of death that utilizes the traditional décor for their intended purposes.
As always with this comic, it feels a lot like the recent movie of the same name. It has some heartwarming moments with Billy’s adopted family and long-lost father, as well as funny jokes to match the action and adventure. This story is not all man-vs-environment though, as Sivana and Black Adam have an ongoing B-Story that comes to a head in the climax of this issue that will have the reader counting down for issue #9. Based on how that climax plays out with some of the information the reader learns from the denizens in the Darklands could also lead to some very interesting future storylines. Finally, it is worth mentioning how great all the characters are. Each of the siblings have distinct personalities, allowing the reader to learn about each of them and identify with many of them in different ways. Johns manages this herculean task expertly, especially when one considers he manages this with 20 pages per month and we’re only 8 issues into the series.
Scott Kolins and Michael Atoyeh manage the art for this issue, and it is very sharp. The design of the Darklands demands the majority of praise because, not only are they new in this issue, they look fantastic, a Halloween Town aesthetic, but on steroids. The way it is drawn and colored in shades of black and white is truly beautiful, with Shazam providing a nice splash of color into those scenes. There are also ghosts, sinister faces, spider webs, and all the other trappings of such a realm that really make the location feel exciting, forcing the reader to feel like they’re on the adventure with Shazam. Outside of the Darklands, the whole book looks good as well. Many of the human characters have this superheroic style to them with strong jaws and dynamic poses which really makes the book feel classic.
Atoyeh’s colors deserve special praise as well regarding the small details, such as the Wizard’s eyes which are filled with blue lightening on a black background which really pops.
Leigh’s letters also deserve a shout out, because every time a character says the magic words (Shazam), the way it is written really makes the reader feel the weight and power those words convey to these characters.
The consistent mix of heartwarming, funny, action packed, and the sheer adventure make this series something special, certainly worth any reader’s time.