Writer – Geoff Johns; Artists – Scott Kolins, Dale Eaglesham; Colorist – Michael Atiyeh; Letterer – Rob Leigh; Associate Editor – Andrea Shea; Editor – Mike Cotton; Group Editor – Alex R. Carr
Geoff Johns is great at universe building. I know, not exactly a searing insight, but he expanded Green Lantern in such amazing ways with Blackest Night, the development of the emotional spectrum, and the War of Light and is now bringing that same flair to Shazam and the realms of magic. So far, this story has taken readers to so many unique places with such interesting characters and stories, it’s hard to believe this is only the tenth issue!
In this, Shazam #10, King Kid is the main villain in the first half of the book. He is running wild in the Earthlands (i.e. where we live) with his army of monstrous clowns, and it is up to Shazam and his family to stop him. He is defeated pretty easily, which makes sense considering it is one child with a magical imagination vs seven wizards with myriad powers, but the fight proper is probably the least interesting part of the story. We get to see how damaged and pained King Kid really is. Once defeated, his whole tough facade crumbles and the audience sees that he really is just a child with too much power. Billy captures him and, while it would have been great to actually explore his pain a little more, Billy’s choice is right for his character; a hero wouldn’t have a discussion about origins and motivations while the villain’s legions destroy the town.
Billy’s dad CC takes the whole thing harder though, which is much more interesting. King Kid’s motivation was a feeling of betrayal and abuse from his parents, and that’s why he cares for neglected children and enslaves adults. CC feels guilty for not being there for Billy and can see Billy reflected in King Kid’s actions and demeanor. In fact, if it weren’t for his adopted family, Billy could have been just like the villain he helped to defeat. This is certainly more a matter of subtext than text, but to be able to reach these depths and deal with issues like abuse, mercy, maturity, and self-reflection says a lot for the writing!
The second half deals more with Mr. Mind and Dr. Sivana as they open the door to the Monsterlands, the last of the 7 realms of magic. It acts as a prison where the wizards have locked enemies for ages or, according to Mr. Mind, people that the wizards feared or whose power they envied. Releasing these monsters, formerly known as gods (e.g. Hercules and Zeus), will certainly be a fun upcoming story arc, considering Billy has some of their powers (strength or Hercules, power of Zeus).
Kolins, Eaglesham, Atiyeh, and Leigh are integral to publishing one of the best drawn books out there. One thing that really separates Shazam from most other modern comics is Atiyeh’s diverse use of colors. While many books stick heavily to dark colors like black, dark reds, maybe some dark blues, Shazam uses the whole color wheel. King Kid has his purple robes with white fur, the 7 heroes all have colorful costumes, Mr. Mind is a natural shade of green, just to highlight a few examples.
All of this color stands on Kolins’ and Eaglesham’s artwork, which also works hard to bring these characters and stories to life. Many closeups have detailed eyes, there is great use of shading all over, and there continues to be very interesting character design, a big reason to keep picking this title up. King Kid dresses how a 14-year-old would imagine a king dressing, and his clown monsters are nightmarish, even for those that actually like clowns. The ‘monster’ design is suitably creepy as well. Though we only get a taste of the Monsterlands in this issue, The Dummy has a great design that bodes well for the reveal of the rest of this realm’s prisoners.
Letters gets put on display in this title too. Between the sound effects of the lightning strikes and cries of “Shazam,” constants for this book, there are lots of opportunities for unique lettering that Leigh makes the most of.
This run of Shazam is not one you want to miss. Johns’ world building will certainly be integral to these characters for as long as people make Shazam comics and the art team’s designs will be the default for quite some time.