JusticeLeague21Cover

It’s the final showdown between Shazam and Black Adam and Billy’s alter ego doesn’t stand a chance. The wizard’s evil avatar has wielded the living lightning for centuries while our hero’s channeled it for just a few short days. Not only that but the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man are on the loose, Sabbac reveals himself and starts lighting up the city with demonic fire, and Black Adam’s captured Billy’s adopted family. What’s a kid to do?

After almost two years languishing in the back of Justice League issues, Billy Batson and Shazam finally get their shot at the spotlight, and Geoff Johns and Gary Frank bring the phenomenal series to a truly incredible conclusion. Justice League #21 is a book full of pleasant surprises, gorgeous visuals, and an ending that satisfies and promises all new enemies in the future.

As I’m reviewing this issue, I can’t help but think about every moment that’s led us up to this point. Taken as a whole, Johns has channeled all the foundational themes of the Captain Marvel stories of old: growing up, family, living in an adult world, power, and tempered them all with a New 52 spin. It doesn’t break new Shazam ground, but it stays true what makes Billy and the Marvel family so compelling, and reinvigorates a franchise that more than deserves its time in the sun.

These 21 issues have a been a real journey. Billy has transformed from, let’s be honest, a little shit, into someone who just might be worthy of the wizard’s powers. As much as I love Captain Marvel, I didn’t really like this new Shazam story at the beginning. There was a lot of buildup that centered around this character that was nothing like the Billy Batson that I knew and loved. But slowly Johns turned me into a believer.

Here, at the end of the road, Johns gives us everything we need, though not necessarily everything that we want. This isn’t the drop down drag out brawl between two mythical titans. Instead it’s a story about a troubled young man who stares into the face of evil and doesn’t blink. It’s a story about learning how to love and how to be loved. It’s a far more emotionally-charged than action-driven, but that’s ok. Like I said, Geoff respects the Shazam legacy, and Billy deals with the coming storm without punching first and asking questions later. However, when the action does happen? Gary Frank brings it hard.

Frank’s artwork has been simply stellar stuff since the get go. His line work is some of the best in the biz; think a less wild version of Leinil Francis Yu, and his page composition ensures your eye moves effortlessly through the issue. One thing that Frank excels at is telling a story through facial expressions. At times the text feels almost secondary to the characters and their faces, as weird as that sounds.

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Just look at that face!

It is a shame though that in this final issue, with Shazam facing off against his archenemy, Frank never gets to show us the two rivals throwing down in pure fisticuff fancyness. However he does give us a totally re-imagined Shazam Family, a couple of gorgeous full page action sequences (Mary punching Sabbac was a highlight for me), and some beautifully expressive facial expressions with Shazam that really show the boy inside.

In short, Johns and Frank deliver a cathartic climax to their long running Shazam story that should please fans of the classic Captain and New 52 readers alike. It’s not as action-packed as you might expect from a showdown between two of DC’s mystical heavyweights, but it’s satisfying  nonetheless and proves that Geoff understands what makes Billy and Shazam unique in the DC U. It also shows off Gary Frank’s rock solid pencils, which I think may be some of the prettiest coming out of the company right now.

I’m so glad that DC hasn’t given up on Shazam, and that Johns has been so respectful and tactical upon taking up the reins. If you haven’t given Justice League a chance, give it a read for Shazam!

About The Author

Ben graduated with a degree in Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media from Michigan State University, finally figured out that he loved comics more than anything in the world, and moved to New York City to intern for Marvel. He lived in NYC for a while, freelance writing his own column for Marvel.com, “Unlimited Highlights” and waiting tables, but missed the Michigan greenery and moved back to attend grad school at MSU and study comics.

He was accepted into the school’s Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing program and worked for the Writing Center as a Graduate Coordinator, helping people of all writing levels improve their work. Flash forward two years and he’s a Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing master, the Scholarly Panel Coordinator for the MSU Comics Forum, and an Editorial Fellow at Symbolia Magazine, while still keeping up with his Marvel freelance gig, writing reviews for DestroyTheCyborg, and writing at his own blog, I Speak Comics. Comics have consumed his life and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

When he’s not reading, thinking, or writing about funny books he plays fighting games. He loves them ALMOST as much as he loves comics, which is scary. Currently he’s bringing the lightning as Shazam in Injustice: Gods Among Us, but he plays a bit of Guy in Street Fighter 4, Ezio in Soul Calibur 5, and Thor/Hulk/She-Hulk in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. If you’re on Xbox and have a hankering for a beat down, hit him up, he’s iFIGHT4food.

Is that it? He'll get back to you when something new and cool goes down.

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