DC Comics, 2006, 22 pages, $ 2.99
For a book that used to be the epitome of corny children's entertainment in its original 1940s version, Trials of Shazam sure is one helluva grim comic. In principle, granted, there's nothing wrong with re-interpreting a concept to keep it fresh, particularly if it's seventy years old. What DC ends up with here, however, is a Captain Marvel series that evidently wants to be dark and serious, but whose idea of achieving that culminates in a hairy demon exhaustively vomiting on the protagonist's face. And, at the end of the day, the book still stars a boy who turns into a superhero with a red leotard by screaming "SHAZAM!," of course.
In addition to being a conceptually incongruent mess, Trials of Shazam also suffers from a variety of storytelling issues. Some of the blame rests on Howard Porter's artwork, which looks frequently murky and static. More significantly, though, Judd Winick's script singularly fails to define the hero. The audience neither learns who exactly Billy Batson is, nor why he turns into Captain Marvel, let alone why he feels compelled to go out and fight monsters. At one point, he's portrayed as a mentor figure, which seems at odds with the notion that he's meant to be a teenage kid. What's left are a couple of generic fight sequences and some opaque lines about "the world of magic."
Trials of Shazam is the bleakest comic I've read in a while, in more than one sense. It's a poorly-told, joyless mess, and it mistakes stitched-on tastelessness and misery for maturity. You wonder what the point was meant to be when they came up with it.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.