Pick of the Week

10.31.2007 – The Trials of Shazam! #9

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Avg Rating: 3.5
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    Size: pages
    Price:

    Writer – Judd Winick
    Artist – Mauro Cascioli
    Letterer – Rob Leigh

    DC Comics – $2.99

    I can’t tell if this book would still be under the radar if it came out on time, or even if it is coming out on time, and it’s just on a tri-monthly schedule. What is amazing about this title is that it seems to go months between issues, but I have never once had trouble remembering where we left off. This is no small thing considering the amount of media input I’m subjected to in the months between issues.

    This is a 12 issue mini series, where the main plot is that all the members of the Marvel family have shifted up one rank. Captain Marvel took over for the Wizard Shazam, and Captain Marvel Junior, Freddy Freeman (a truly anachronistic name) is next in line to take his spot. But there’s a hitch. He has to earn the powers of Shazam from the gods where those powers originated. Honestly, it’s a bit much to explain, but for more on the Shazam mythos and acronym, it’s all here. So what we get is a pretty standard quest story. Freddy has to find and challenge each of the gods to get there powers. Of course, there is another super being lady with dreadlocks who wants those powers as well, and she’s not entirely unsuccessful. All in all, this is a very basic kind of “hero’s quest” story, and it’s been consistently laid out and a great deal of fun.

    At the end of the last issue, Freddy was tasked with finding Apollo, who was next in line to assume the mantle of Atlas, who was responsible for “holding up the world.” But Atlas died, and the world was in need of someone to take up the position. Captain Marvel, or Billy Batson, had to take over the position, but he could only do so for a specific period of time, because he can’t be away from the Rock of Eternity for too long. Freddy finds Apollo, and Apollo had started a life, with a wife and kids, and a job as a doctor, and he didn’t want anything to do with going back to Godhood, especially in the very thankless Atlas role. So, of course, they fight. But what I liked about this, is that the characters didn’t have a clear cut sense of right and wrong, but rather the grey areas in between were explored. Certainly, being a god seems like a good thing, but there’s a terrible responsibility to it, and while Apollo eventually decided to live up to his role, he didn’t do so happily, and there was not a neat and tidy ending to this. In fact, the characters are in a position where failure really does seem like an option. I like that I don’t know what’s going to happen. On top of all that story (and really, just trying to explain that much was far more confusing than the book actually is), there’s a nice lightness to the characters that Winick brings, which just takes the edge off all the mythos and godhood going on here. I have no history with, or prior knowledge of anything other than the basics of the Captain Marvel family, but I’ve been into every issue of this one so far. You can just read it and go with it.

    The regular artist for this series has been Howard Porter, who is probably primarily known as the artist from Grant Morrison’s JLA years. In this series, he’s used a completely different style, drawing, inking, and coloring every issue. It may be that factor which caused the book to fall behind on schedule, but for this one, they went with a fill-in artist, Mauro Cascioli, who used a nearly identical style. This is good, because this book doesn’t really look like anything else out there. You can get a good feel for it on the cover, drawn by Porter. I’m not sure how happy it made Cascioli, but you couldn’t ask much more from a fill-in artist, because I didn’t feel a disruption in the regular story at all. I’m going to chalk that up to excellent editing and book production.

    The truth is, someday this will make an excellent set of trade paperbacks. The first collection is already available, and I’m sure the second will follow shortly after the series is concluded. When it’s all said and done, this is going to be a nice, tidy superhero story that can stand up all on its own. The real shame will not be the fact that the book was late, but rather that no one seems to notice.

    Josh Flanagan
    Seriously, forget I even mentioned the late thing. Really…
    josh@ifanboy.com

    Did you read The Trials of Shazam #9?
    Add a comment and tell everyone what you think about this week’s comics!
    It’s about time that this book got some recognition. When it does manage to come out, there hasn’t been one weak issue. Really, it’s been so good and consistent, that I haven’t even minded the schedule problems. You know what? Forget I even mentioned them.

    Comments

    1. I picked up the first trade when it came out after hearing your big endorsement on the show and quite enjoyed it. Sad to see Porter had to bow out (I know I saw solicitations for later issues that he’s also not doing the art for) but I will surely pick up vol. 2.

    2. Yay!

      I had no idea any of the iFanboys were reading Trials Of Shazam. Here I was enjoying all this Shazam awesomeness in silence. Selfishly, may say.

      And now you’ve shined your iFanboy light on one of my current faves. Way to go, Josh.

      JSA #10 was my POW, btw.

    3. I like this series and Captain Marvel is my all-time favorite DC character. Very glad to see that this issue was worthy of POW status and I’m now more excited to read it than ever. 🙂

    4. When picking a Shazam series to read, I picked Jeff Smith’s. Seemed like a sucker’s bet. Whoops!

    5. I can’t stress enough how this has nothing to do with the Jeff Smith series.

    6. I’m glad to see this title getting some due respect. I’m bummed to hear Porter is out, though. I really liked what he did on this title. I hope his replacement can live up to that. I better go get this issue so i can read it now!

    7. This one looks like one I should check out in trade. My pick this week is X-Men Messiah Complex One Shot. This was a fantastic book.

    8. Actually, I believe Porter sustained some kind of injury, and couldn’t finish the book, so Mauro is finishing out the run. I gotta say, I think I like him even better.

      I didn’t expect to like this book at ALL, but I agree with Josh’s assessment. I don’t care about the lateness, and every time it does come out it’s a fun story, and honestly…? It’s nice to see them doing something totally different with the whole Shazam concept. That’s one of those concepts that never seems to be allowed to change, so this take seems startlingly irreverant, which is kinda nice, IMHO.

    9. FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      I felt like I was the only one reading this book, I haven’t heard you guys mention it at all.

      I’m really glad that you pick this book Josh because I honestly believe that it could be the best book that DC is putting out right now.

      Winick has done a great job of showing the legacy behind the mantle of Captain Marvel and how each of the gods factor in, not only with their powers but their spirits.

      I also love how Winick is incorporating the gods into the current world. The plugged in Atlas that we holding the world on this shoulders was one of the best ideas that I’ve seen in a comic book.

      I’m so relieved that you mentioned this book, I now a lot of people go off your recommendations so hopefully people will start picking this book up!

    10. But really Josh, was this the best book of the week? I can understand trying to generate a bit of buzz about the book, i read the first trade adn it is pretty solid, but aren’t there any better books that came out this week?
      Do you guys sometimes pick the dark horse just to avoid the obvious picks?

      (sorry if this sounds critical, it’s not my intention, im just shocked by the pick)

    11. Cool Pick! I went with Justice Society of America #10, but Action Comics was a close second. How much does Geoff Johns rule.

      I heard an interview with Judd Winnick regarding Trials and Howard Porter and apparently Howard injured his hand. That’s why they’re has been such a large amount of time between the last few issues cause he tried to continue, but he further injured himself.

    12. I’d have to go with either Justice Society or Iron Man. If you pressed me for one pick, I’d go with Iron Man. By the end of it I was rooting for Tony, which hasn’t happend a lot since Civil War. Special Forces was compelling. I picked it up on a whim and found it absolutely satisfying. The most impressive pick of this week was Countdown. I was so close to not picking this up. I passed it on the shelf twice and hovered over it for a good longwhile before I decided this would probably be the last issue of the series that I would buy. Alas no. This past issue actually got me excited to see what is going to happen next. The first time that has happened with the series.

    13. But really Josh, was this the best book of the week? I

      Yes, to me.

      can understand trying to generate a bit of buzz about the book, i read the first trade adn it is pretty solid, but aren’t there any better books that came out this week?

      Not to me, no.

      Do you guys sometimes pick the dark horse just to avoid the obvious picks?

      No. That’s against the rules.

    14. JSA #10 was my pick this week. I don’t know how this book could get any better.

      A book that caught my eye and I was tempted to buy was the Messiah Complex one shot. I heard one good opinion about it but I think I would need to hear more love b4 i get it.

    15. I had a very light week, so my PoW was Daredevil Annual #1

      I might just check out Trials of Shazam. I could have sworn at least one of you guys didn’t dig it though. Hrrm.

    16. I haven’t picked any of the Trials of Shazam books up– so I’ll have to take everybody’s word that it’s a good book. I may indeed pick it up in trade later, or hardcover.

      Of the books I read this week, I’d have to rate Action Comics as the POW, both for the art and the writing. I just got a really good feeling reading it. Except for when they shot the “alien” baby, but that was funny commentary, it seemed to me!

      I also enjoyed JSA, and even the Daredevil Annual.

      Oh, and I did enjoy the X-Men Messiah Complex One Shot– almost in spite of myself. I had no idea what was going on as I read it– having not read an X-book in some 16 years (except for reading Astonishing in trade, which is so “of itself” in continuity that it really doesn’t count). And, sometimes the art made me feel like we were back in the 90s again, for some reason. But, by the time I was finished, I found I had enjoyed the book, and will pick up at least the 2nd book in the story when it comes out (whenever that is– next week?).

    17. I liked BATMAN #670. Ra’s al Ghul. Yay

    18. Was it just my copy, or was Daredevil Annual #1 printed all wrong? I was so upset 🙁

    19. Well, how was it printed?

    20. Hey, did everybody see the news that starting in February, Jason Aaron is beginning a four-issue story arc on Wolverine, and will be the new writer on Ghost Rider?

      It just so happens that yesterday, along with my regular pile of books I picked up a copy of Wolverine #56, the issue Aaron wrote recently (art by Chaykin). I don’t know how long it’d been since I picked up a Wolverine book– but I like Aaron on Scalped, and had heard good things about his Wolverine #56, and my shop just so happened to have copies of it…

      And, I LOVED it. It was really good.

      So, I’m stoked about Aaron on Wolverine– whether it’s just for 4 issues or turns into something longer than that.

    21. Just finished my books, and I had a really satifying week. Sadly, I did not pick this up, but will definitely snap this up in trades when it’s done because I have heard nothing but fantastic things about it.

      I would have to say that Action Comics was my pick this week. The art was great, and Geoff Johns continues to show just how amazing of a writer he is. And hopefully, this will put the book on a regular schedule.

      I thought the Daredevil annual was pretty solid as well, but definitely not to the caliber of the monthly series. The Robin annual was in the same ball park, although that back-up story with Zoane seemed like it should have come out like last year. Didn’t they break up like 8 months ago?

      Batman was really good and I’m interested to see the return of The Demon! By the way, Tony Daniels draws a freaking awesome Batman…how bad ass was that cover?!?!?

      Speaking of amazing art, I don’t think Mouse Guard could be any prettier. The story may be light, but goddamnit do I just drool the whole time I read it.

      Tales of the F.E.A.R. Agent, Dynamo 5, Jack of Fables, and True Story, Swear to God all were their solid selves this week. Honestly, zero clunkers this week. I think my dropping bonanza is beginning to pay off!

      Oh and, yes, Jason Aaron on Wolverine is balls to the walls awesome! Can’t wait…

    22. Yes, to me.
      Not to me, no.
      No. That’s against the rules.

      It’s good to know Josh, thanks for clearing it up!

    23. Yeah, that’s always the rule. The person picking is picking the book that, for them personally, was the best thing they read that week. Now, whether that means the most quality, or the most enjoyment gotten from, or whatever, it’s up to the person picking.

      But we really don’t ever pick something just for the sake of being able to talk about it, because we always talk about other books from the week on the show, so everything gets its due.

      The Trials of Shazam was my favorite issue this week, no question.

    24. HOLY CRAP. I totally missed Mouse Guard this week. Payday tomorrow so I’ll get that along with Messiah Complex after work.

    25. Conor: Well, how was it printed?

      The first like 4 pages were printed twice and then like, the last 4 pages were printed twice, I’m not sure if this was intentional or not. I’m not even sure if I had the ending in my issue. I was so confused and distraught. Or am I total idiot and just interpreted it wrong.Is this possible that ONE copy of a book could be printed wrong and the rest would be fine?

    26. DD Annual #1 was really good, but it wasn’t my POW!

      JSA #10 stole the show. The fact that it contains new Alex Ross paints of the earth 22 sequences was one hell of a sweet suprise. Yes, you read that right. New Alex Ross painted panels.

      C.

    27. Excellent choice Josh!
      I echo pretty much everything you said. This is a really fun book, that more people should be picking up.
      Nice job, sir.

    28. Am I weird that I like the legion? After reading the Lightning saga I started reading the book and I like it. Action #858 was my pick because the art was good and it looks like it is going to be the arc that explains all the shady goings on and stuff that happened in the Lightning Saga. Also, is Action always this good? I enjoyed the hell out of it.

    29. Tio Core says: Is this possible that ONE copy of a book could be printed wrong and the rest would be fine?

      Yeah. It’s also possible that there was a short run that got mis-collated and you were one of the lucky (?) ones. The store where you bought it will probably exchange it for a good copy. Or you could keep it as a memento.

    30. Yeah, Guided By Voices!

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