The journey to this special #0 issue began way back in ‘Justice League’ #7 with the ‘Shazam!’ backup story. Then, over the past five months, we’ve been slowly introduced to the Billy Batson of the New 52 Universe. In the old DCU, Billy was the “aw shucks!” goody-goody kid who was granted the powers of a god. To many, that made Captain Marvel even more of a Boy Scout and a laugh than Superman had been. With this new take on Billy, Geoff Johns was determined to cast off that old cheesiness and bring Captain Marvel into the modern era. So did he succeed? Hells yeah he did!
Be warned. I’m discussing the changes to the Captain Marvel origin, so there are some SPOILERS below.
At the finale of the “Shazam!” story in ‘Justice League’ #11, Dr. Sivana had freed Black Adam from his ages-long imprisonment at the same time as Billy was summoned to meet the Wizard Shazam. This issue opens only moments later. Billy is wandering beneath the city streets, having ditched his pal Freddie while running from some bullies. As Billy wanders in this weird place full of magical artifacts, he begins hearing voices and seeing strange visions… then he hears a voice summon him.
Billy follows the voice down the classic hallway with the “seven deadly enemies of man” (now reimagined as magical holograms) and comes to the Wizard sitting on the Rock of Eternity… but, instead of following the old “you were chosen” story, the Wizard says that Billy is not up to the task for which he was summoned. He looks into Billy’s mind and sees all of the mean and cruel things that the boy has done over the last several issues and decrees that Billy is imperfect and not the “pure good” person that is needed for the Wizard’s task. Billy says that this “pure good” person doesn’t exist because good people get beaten down, ignored, and hated. This gives the Wizard pause and he looks again at Billy’s memories. This time, he sees all of the times Billy has done good in his life and he says that this spark of goodness might be all that’s needed. Besides that, the Wizard is dying and Black Adam is coming so there’s no time to find another candidate anyway.
The Wizard tells Billy to say the word… Shazam!
And with that, we have the first appearance of Captain Marvel… or rather Shazam! as he’s now officially called in the New 52 Universe. The issue concludes with Billy returning to Freddie and explaining what’s happened to him… but the question hangs in the air: Can that spark of goodness in Billy fuel a fire and overcome the cynicism that the boy has developed growing up an orphan. I sure as heck can’t wait to find out!
I don’t know where Shazam’s story is going to continue but I sure hope this issue is the beginning of a new stand-alone series of the character. A few pages of backup story in ‘Justice League’ isn’t going to be enough to contain this guy!
Speaking of backup stories, after the main tale, we’re given a glimpse at the mysterious Pandora as she tries to open the box and right the wrong that she caused so many years ago. The Wizard (yes… from the Shazam! story) appears to Pandora with his dying breath and tells her that only someone with “the strongest of heart or the darkest” can open the box. Before he can tell her who, the Wizard’s powers run out and he is gone.
After Pandora’s revelation, we get a single page set in Hub City where we see a kidnapper captured and a little girl saved by a mysterious faceless figure… The Question.
With ‘The Phantom Stranger’ and now Shazam!, Pandora, and The Question, I’m really loving the “Trinity of Sin” and the new landscape of magic in the New 52 Universe. Don’t miss this issue as it’s sure to be the opening salvo of something truly… magical! (Bah dum pum!)
JUSTICE LEAGUE #0
Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Gary Frank
Cover by Gary Frank