Why the Trials of Shazam (#1) is a bad comic…

It seems I did forget to review one comic that came out this week because I’d read it when it was part of the extra special retailer preview comics for last week. Since I forgot to review the Trials of Shazam (FIRST ISSUE!), I thought I’d give it a special longer, more in-depth review.

Before I really start in on this book, I’d like to point out what I LIKED about this comic book. I find Howard Porter’s new style to be pretty interesting. It certainly not as clean or a clear as it could be but after a few more issue I’m sure it’ll be superior to his old style, which I enjoyed a great deal. I’ve like Porter’s art since the Rock of the Ages story in his run with Grant Morrison on JLA, so it’s nice to see him keep getting work and experimenting with a new, more painterly style.

Sadly though, Porter’s art is the only thing I liked in this book, at all.


Trials of Shazam is one of the worst written books I have read in (at least) a few weeks. I used to like Judd Winick’s writing a great deal. His Barry Ween: Boy Genius was brilliant and hilarious. I liked his early Green Lantern run and his first couple of arcs on Green Arrow. Yet over the last few years (since around the time of the ‘Brick’ arc in Green Arrow) Winick’s writing a taken a turn for the worse. Most of his recent writing has just been utter shit.

His recent work on Green Arrow is about to drive me from reading a book that I used adore starring a character I like a great deal. The ONE YEAR LATER issue of Outsiders was easily one of the worst comic books I have read all year (up there with Bruce Jones’ Nightwing). Winick just can’t seem to write anything these days that I can enjoy.

What does this have to do with the Trials of Shazam? A great deal. This book is a is just a showcase of all of Winick’s annoying writer-tics of recent years. Including:

  1. Child molester/killers as villains. The first time he used villains like this in Outsiders (and John Walsh guest starred) it was a little too “real-world” and forced for my taste. Here’s it’s just stupid.
  2. Repetitious captions. “Okay. I’m done being nice.” “All Done.” I’m tried of every writer, not just Winick (Bendis, I’m looking at you) writing every damn character with Frank Miller style narration. It’s annoying when Miller does it, these days, so it’s even MORE fucking annoying when other do it.
  3. Cliched villains. I swear to god I saw the loin-clothed evil cultist in the Monster Manual the other day

Good news is, there was no politics or “serious social issue” based preaching in this book.

Another major annoyance: poor Zatanna. It seems the poor girl can’t appear in a comic book these days without being used as a plot device (Identity Crisis, anyone?) or as a cipher to make the a book’s main character seem more powerful.

The stupidity of when a writer’s uses well established characters to make their book’s star look better was well expressed by Erik, a poster on Comic’s Should Be Good!:

Technique 1. Have him help someone the reader knows to be powerful. (”The great magician Zatanna.”) This help should be necessary to solve the powerful figure’s problem. (”Here’s how you kill this beast you’ve never seen before.”)

Technique 2. Have him make the figure in Step 1 look inferior in some meaningful way. (Zatanna: “I’m confused by your incredibly straight-forward explanation of how this creature came to be. The guy reading the comic wasn’t confused, but I am somehow completely baffled.”)

Technique 3. Set something up to sound powerful and serious. Then have your hero remark at the relative triviality of it. (”Fourteenth-level? That can wait.”)

Zatanna is an interesting character, with a long and rich history in the DC universe, who doesn’t need to be made to look like an idiot to make Shazam seem cooler or more competent.

One more pet peeve before I go. I’ve had it when writer’s use a “level” to describe a magical characters power in a comic, novel, movie, or TV show. It just reeks too much of gaming related stupidity (my 17th level elf wizard could totally
As you can see, I believe there’s absolutely no reason (other than to check out Porter’s new art style) to read this book. It’s crap through and through. RATING: UTTER SHIT

(To read a much more forgiving review, check out Brian Cronin’s)

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10 Comments on “Why the Trials of Shazam (#1) is a bad comic…”

  1. The Kaiser says:

    Shazam comes off a bit like a doofus, which is a worse offense than the shallow story. The cliffhanger ending doesn’t have any bite to it, largely due to Winick’s lack of a good set-up. Give the same concept to a master of the cliffhanger such as Brian K. Vaughan and jaws would be dropping with the final page. I think even Winnick though, can’t fuck this one up. I doubt Freddie Freeman is going to realize he wants to be MTF while Mary turns out to be a lesbian while Shazam oversees the same sex (sort of) of the two. Maybe Uncle Marvel will fuck Freddie by the end of it…maybe. I think that is all we can hope for out of Winnick.

  2. i agree. man, i wish we lived in a dream world where didio gave vaughan this assignment instead of winick!

  3. Ragnell says:

    I have to wonder if Winick has compromising photos of Didio or Levitz.

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  5. kaywan says:

    ooookaaay, so first let’s forget for the moment that (besides myself) that the gentlemen that rate this book are, in fact, “super nerds, sown together from parts of lesser nerds.” Seriously. when it comes an opinion whether or not this book is good depends totally on the reader. Captain Marvel is an honest to goodness dude from the early days (i.e. the 50’s and so forth). he has never lost that. not ever, in all these years, so when one decides that he should be more “edgy” c’mon, that takes away from the whole idea of what “captain mavel” is supposed to be. he’snote bad ass “my guy can kick yer guy’s ass” type of character. he’s the boy scout. he’s the dude who’s amazing and powerful as all get out without the sex appeal. people have to realise that captain marvel is what he is. i mean i could say”nicolas cage is a great actor but ghost rider licks total ass.” but i can see it for what it is, a money making machine. trials of shazam is simply a way ofgetting people to understand (in a sort of modern way) why shazam is as powerful as he is. i mean, one doesn’t just say “SHAZAM!” and be as powerful as superman. c’mon people, stop acting like “i wanna have the silver embossed cover of 1993’s death of superman, and by the way, rob liefield-is-god-though-he-doesn’t-know-anatomy-for-shit” kinda reader and appreciate what is there…good art good story. what the hell else do you need? you dudes need to stop bashing on a good book (since it SEEMS mind you, that you started reading books after Jim lee got all that hype, well deserved don’t get me wrong) that all ya want is the fanfare and not the meat of the book. just because you have to read at a higher level than “see dick run,” tough shit gump. put your mind to itand recognize that yer dealing with the ultimate goody goody, and a brand new freddy. enjoy it, i think maybe you’ll like it by the time it’s done.

  6. Land of Home says:

    Thanks for sharing this information. Really is pack with new knowledge. Keep them coming.

  7. Jayms says:

    I quite liked it. Although i have only read it in the form of a graphic novel of the first 6 chapters. I thought the intro where the marvel family has thier powers removed was really pretty cool and done well(although i don’t know if that was part of the first comic or not) otherwise it was a good read. issue 1 set up the story and in my opinion didn’t do a bad job of it. The rest of the issues had just enough of a light hearted elements and the storyline and art are both nice. It’s serainly not perfect but it is a good series.

  8. Rocco (USA) says:

    OK. So I’ve been out of the DC Universe for a little bit. I was not always a fan of the Shazam character but if you are going to write a critique of someone elses writing you may want to learn to spell. I can’t believe that it is your job to write and you misspell words left and right in here.

    Your use of colorful metaphors are right on target there genius.

  9. I apologize for my illiteracy. i will immediately inform my boss of my shortcoming. I am sure that he will fire me from this high paying job and my family will be homeless within weeks.

    Thank you very much.

  10. doctorbrown says:

    It’s funny to me when people named Rocco ( a name usually reserved for monosyllabic Joker henchmen or extras in boxing movies) critique other people’s English. I mean, Rocco could be a professor of English at Stanford for all I know, but it’s still amusing to me.


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