Tuesday, October 23, 2012

JUSTICE LEAGUE #0


“Shazam!”

Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Editor: Brian Cunningham

Synopsis

At the Rock of Eternity, Billy Batson meets the last of the Council of Wizards, who bestows upon the teen the power of the living lightning.  Now known as Shazam, Billy has become the champion of magic, charged by the Wizard to protect the world from mystical threats.  A bolt of lightning strikes, seemingly killing the Wizard and transporting Billy back to Earth, where he reveals his new superhuman form and powers to Freddy.  Billy revels in the use of his abilities, unaware that the threat of Black Adam has been unleashed upon the world…




Notes

Page 1:  "Where is the Wizard?"  Sivana freed Black Adam from his imprisonment in Justice League #10.

Page 2:   Billy Batson arrived at the Rock of Eternity in Justice League #11. 

The Rock of Eternity seems like a pretty cool place in which to hang out.  I mean, it's got a magic-mirror, a talking suit of armor, a huge dragon skeleton...reminds me of my living room...

Page 3:

So what's the deal with the snowman?  Is that the random "snowman room" that every creepy magic castle is supposed to have, or does it represent something to Billy?  A memory, perhaps?

Page 4:  

When Billy touches the plaque, an image of "Pride" appears.  Pride, along with the other Seven Deadly Sins of Man (and those would be Envy, Green, Anger, Sloth, Gluttony and Lust) is imprisoned in the Rock of Eternity.

Page 5:  

Good to see that Billy's having a grand old time generating images of the Seven Deadly Sins.  Wonder if he'll be so joyful when they're released for real, hmmm?

“This is no time for fun and games!”  Yeah!  You tell him, cranky old man!

Page 6:  

There is just no pleasing this guy, is there?

Page 7:  “I am the last of the Council of Wizards and the keeper of the Rock of Eternity!”  The Council of Wizards was seen in DC Comics -- The New 52 FCBD Special Edition #1.

“Not only has the seeking spell brought me a child, but a rotten one at that!”  Man, this dude is just so critical sometimes…

Page 8:  

Ok, the Wizard might have a point.  Billy is a bit of a tool...

“But you are as imperfect as every other soul I’ve brought here.”  As noted in previous chapters of this story, the Wizard has been “abducting” potential candidates for quite some time, testing them for their worthiness.  Thus far, no one has lived up to his exacting standards of “purity.”

“Well, I’m only fifteen and I already know there’s no such thing as a pure good person.”  Wise beyond his years, is he?  (Speak in your best “Yoda” voice.)

Page 9:  “People are horrible.  They disappoint you.  They let you down.  I’ve spent my life learning that.”  Note to self – whenever you’re down and feeling blue, don’t call Billy Batson if you need to be cheered up.  The kid is a total downer.

“Do you have the embers of good inside you then?  Is that it?”  Good to see that, after several thousand years of failure, the Wizard is open to a new plan…

Page 10:  

Alright, alright, the kid's not a total loss...

Page 11:  

"Shazam" is no longer the Wizard's name, nor does it represent the gods and heroes that gave the Wizard his power.  It is now, even more so than before, a "magic word," a word that bestows power upon a worthy individual.

Page 12:  


First appearance of Shazam.  First historical appearance (as Captain Marvel) in Whiz Comics #2.  Real name William Joseph “Billy” Batson.  Possesses superhuman strength, speed, stamina, invulnerability, flight and the control of magic lightning.

I like the redesigned Shazam.  More magical, less standard super-hero union suit.  The hood works for me, as does the emblem on his chest that emits actual lightning.  It looks pretty cool, and different from the rest of the heroes of the DCU.

Page 13:  “You are now the inheritor of my chair on the Council of Eternity.”  Does this mean that the other members of the Council of Eternity – none of whom have presumably been seen for a while – each have their own inheritors too?  Or is this Wizard the only one who has passed on his power?


“The power of the living lightning is yours.”  As opposed to the pre-Flashpoint Captain Marvel – whose powers were derived from gifts given by Solomon, Hercules, Achilles, Zeus, Atlas and Mercury – the New 52 DCU Shazam gets his abilities from a single source, the living lightning, which grants him all of his powers. 

Page 14:  

Did anyone really think that Billy was going to get all responsible now that he had powers?  No, me neither...
Page 15:  “You must stop Black Adam…stop him from awaking the Seven Deadly Sins of Man…”  That Black Adam, he’s such a character…

“Your powers are vast…beyond your flight and strength…and the spells you can weave…” Spells?  He can cast spells now?  Who knew?

“You must learn them…watch over…your family as I should have…”  Is the Wizard referring to Billy’s long-lost parents?  Or his new foster family?

 A bit of foreshadowing?  Will Billy need reminding that his new family will ultimately be his salvation?

Page 16:  “You are magic’s champion, Billy Batson.  You are…Shazam.”  So, as opposed to being another super-hero in a world of super-heroes, Shazam actually has a greater purpose and mission. 

Page 17:  Billy pushed Freddy into the bushes at the Bryer house back in Justice League #11.  But he had a good reason for it…

Page 18:  

"No, how the hell did you become a roided-out adult in a bright red costume with a big honking lightning bolt on your chest?  Really, I wanna hear this story..."

Page 19:  “Maybe he died giving you his magic powers.”  Historically, the Wizard Shazam died after bestowing Billy Batson with the power of Shazam; usually he was crushed by a large stone that fell on him, effectively crushing him.

Page 20:  

It's refreshing to see that being given a magical legacy to protect the world hasn't made Billy any less of a juvenile delinquent...

“Hey!  Let’s buy some beer!  Do you have any money?”  And it’s great to see that Freddy is such a positive influence on his pal Billy…

It seems that Shazam can’t touch anything electrical without shorting it out.  Keep him away from your cell phones and iPads, folks.

Page 22:  

It looks like Billy needs to learns his own strength.  Not that the mugger didn't deserve it.
Page 23:  

Real smooth, Casanova...

Page 24:  “WE'RE GONNA BE RICH!.”  Sigh.  How I long for the days when getting twenty dollars seemed like a fortune.

“Questions”

Writer:  Geoff Johns
Artist:  Ethan Van Sciver
Colors:  Hi-Fi
Letters:  Nick J. Napolitano
Editor:  Brian Cunningham

Synopsis

With is dying breath, the Wizard appears before Pandora and apologizes to her for the Councils of Wizards’ judgment millennia ago.  Before vanishing, he warns her that Pandora’s Box can be opened once again, but only by the strongest or darkest of hearts.  Meanwhile, in Hub City, the third member of the Trinity of Sin, the Question, has returned…

Notes

Page 25:  This story takes place immediately after the events of DC Comics -- The New 52 FCBD Special Edition #1, in which Pandora broke into the Black Room to steal Pandora’s Box.

“My name is Pandora and for the first time since I was sentenced by the Council of Eternity -- ”  Her sentencing was depicted in DC Comics -- The New 52 FCBD Special Edition #1.

Page 26:  

I'm still waiting for an explanation why Pandora's Box resembles the cuff links worn by the two shadowy "super-villains" seen at the end of Justice League #6.

Page 27:  The Wizard appears here after his death on Page 16.

“The other two of the Trinity of Sin deserved their punishment, but you…you did not, Pandora.”  The “other two” being the Phantom Stranger and the Question. 
  
So, is this "Great Power" a power for good...or for evil?
“…and only the strongest of heart or the darkest…can open the box and claim its power…can transform the…”  So it seems that it will be a force of either good or evil, depending upon who opens the box.  But who are these individuals who can open it?  And what will the power transform?

“Tell me who!”  Well, he’s not gonna make it that easy on ya, Pandora.

Page 28:  In the pre-Flashpoint DCU, Hub City was the base of operations for the Question.  It seems that the New 52 DCU Question hangs his hat there as well. 

“We found her!  The mayor’s little girl!”  In the pre-Flashpoint DCU, the mayor of Hub City was Myra Fermin, with whom the Question, a.k.a. Charles Victor Szasz, had a relationship.  When Szasz left Hub City, Fermin stayed behind, but she let her daughter Jackie go with him to escape the chaos.  Any chance this little girl is Jackie Fermin?

“I think it’s the kidnapper.  John Dandy.”  So the first two times I read this scene, nothing about this name jumped out at me.  Just the name of a kidnapper.  Nothing interesting, right?

Duh.  I feel like a fool.

Image from Who's Who in the DC Universe Update 1993 #1.

In the pre-Flashpoint DCU, John Dandy was the alter ego of Yankee Doodle Dandy, who first appeared in Doom Patrol (second series) #51, and created by Grant Morrison.

(Side note – if, for some reason, you have never read Morrison’s Doom Patrol run, the please run to your nearest comic book store and but the trade paperbacks.  Now.  Please.  It’s essential to your peace of mind and well-being.  End side note.)

In short, John Dandy was a government agent who worked for the Pentagon’s Unusual Operatives Division.  After stealing research notes from a scientist, he designed a special gas that could be used to create life-like masks that allowed him to become a master of disguise.  After operating for years as a secret agent, his final case took him to the lower levels of the Pentagon…where he vanished.  A year later he emerged, transformed into a faceless being surrounded by seven faces that filled Dandy with power and give him a sense of who his enemies are, were and will be.  Though he became a recluse, he still worked for the Pentagon and was called into active duty to deal with the threat of Mr. Nobody and the Brotherhood of Dada.

So…what does this have to do with the Question?  Or this story?

Glad you asked.  You see, the scientist from whom Dandy stole was none other than Dr. Aristotle Rodor, the man who invented pseudoderm , the synthetic skin which Charles Victor Szasz used to create his mask to hide his identity.  Thus, Yankee Doodle Dandy became a weird, twisted version of the Question,

Thus, in the New 52 DCU, it seems like the Question has finally taken his revenge out on Dandy form stealing from his mentor, in a really weird and roundabout way. 

The "man" and the "girl" are obvious references to the Phantom Stranger and Pandora, but the rest?  Crazy, nonsensical rambling that make the Question sound like he just stepped out of an episode of Justice League Unlimited...