Writer: Judd Winnick
Artist: Howard Porter
Publisher: DC Comics
To those who do not like his style (mainly because of his penchant for bringing social issues into his stories), Judd Winnick is, at best, a one trick pony whose repertoire is limited to homosexual and AIDS/HIV afflicted characters and at worst..., well..., I’d rather not say that here. "To each his own," and even though my own primary reason for reading comics is to find a temporary escape from reality into the fantasy (as with movies, TV or any other literal endeavors), I’d much rather have stories with social issues than ones spouting the writer’s personal politics and/or religious beliefs.
Fortunately, both for me and for those who do not like to have social issues in their comics, Trials of Shazam! has neither political nor social commentary in it..., not yet anyway. What it has is good old-fashioned magic and fantasy, but with a 21st century twist. Right from wide screen televisions in the Rock of Eternity, to street-smart immortals to bad guys who, at first sight, come across more as high powered businessmen (and women) than evil wizards and demons. This mini, even at the third issue, is well on its way to its intended target: to take the "Cave of Shazam," break it down to the last boulder and then rebuild it from the foundation up, into the "Tower of Shazam" (with Cap’n Billy Marvel taking up residence in the penthouse suite).
Continuing from where it left off at the end of the previous issue, the story here begins with Freddy and his new pal, Zareb Babek, facing off against the "delivery" that Freddy unknowingly brought in to Zareb’s pad. As expected, a fight ensues and although it is straightforward enough, the visuals make it an animated read, right down to the last panel with the duo sitting on their behind, drenched to the skin by the foul smelling innards (and vomit green blood?) of the being in question. Having barely escaped death, the two then set forth on the next leg of their journey, which, unbeknownst to Freddie is also going to be his first trial. I say next and not first because for Freddy, the journey began back from when he started in search of Zareb.
Elsewhere, we get the first showing of the Council of Merlin. Constituted of descendants of the "Great Demon Necromancer" Merlin, the council has its own interest in Freddy and what he is undergoing the trials for: The Power of Shazam. Along with the Council, also introduced is their "nominee" to inherit the powers (if or when Freddy fails): Sabina.
More on the Council and Sabina will have to wait for the upcoming issues, because the remaining duration of this issue focuses on Freddy and Zareb and more importantly Freddy’s first trial. Accompanying Zareb to a tattoo-parlor of all places, Freddy meets up with the beautiful Rachel "Zally" Zallman. More a head taller than Freddy (even with him standing at attention), Zally has Freddy strip down to his jeans and lie on his back to get a tattoo. Not an ordinary one, this tattoo is supposed to provide Freddy with "protection," the magical kind. What follows next is a recounting of Freddy’s past, how he came to be the way he is physically and why does he do what he does, be Captain Marvel Junior, i.e. an "Agent of Captain Marvel," even though it was CM who (indirectly) made him not only handicapped but also an orphan.
The tattoo, rather the trial, complete, the two companions take leave from Zally. Feeling rather anticlimactic, Freddy soon realizes what he has just gone through, what he has achieved and that the person he just met, the tattoo artist Zally, was in fact the God, King Solomon.
Successful in his first trial, Freddy now has the power of Wisdom. He now has the "S" in SHAZAM.
Conclusion: Of all the Brave New World titles (five minis and one ongoing), Trials of Shazam! is easily my favorite of the six. Starting with a bang, this is one ride that just keeps on getting better and better, and one that I intend to stay on until the last panel of the last page of the last issue of this twelve-part mini. Unless DC decides to take it even further as an ongoing, in which case, I'll keep reading at least until this creative team departs from it.
You can find more reviews by Bruce Logan at www.xcave.net
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