As you can tell by the cover, the Justice League actually steps aside this issue and allows the series’ regular backup feature “Shazam!” to fill the issue with the wrap-up to its initial storyline. Shazam must battle his precursor Black Adam who was corrupted by his wondrous powers centuries earlier.
This take on Shazam recasts the “Golly Gee” Billy Batson of old, as a cynical, snarky brat, who was taken in by Victor and Rosa Vasquez, who already had a handful of foster children. Not to spoil things too much, but writer Geoff Johns harkens back to the “Flashpoint” version of “S!H!A!Z!A!M!”, i.e. a Power Ranger-fied variation of the “Shazam Family,” complete with Battle Cat-style Tawky Tawny.
Gary Frank is a great artist and I suppose that’s this story’s saving grace. Seriously, the art is fantastic, but the story is just okay at its very best. I don’t care for the new “Shazam Rangers.” The way Shazam defeats Black Adam is the same as the way he defeated him in the Golden Age. The dialogue isn’t great either. Geoff Johns is usually one of the best writers around and I’ve enjoyed nearly everything he’s written, but he’s failed to capture me with “Shazam!” This is a character/concept that many writers have struggled with in recent years. The character thrived in a simpler time, in the 1940s, where his whimsical nature was tailor-made for children of the era, but in our tech savvy age, it’s a much bigger challenge.
It’s certainly not awful. The art is great, but the writing never finds the right groove. The story is just okay and the dialogue is sort of clunky. If you haven’t been enjoying the “Shazam” backup strips, definitely skip this issue and come back next month when the Justice League returns.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #21
Written by Geoff Johns
Art and Cover by Gary Frank