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Superman/Shazam: First Thunder #3

Superman/Shazam: First Thunder #3

Scheduled to arrive in stores: January 4, 2006

Cover date: January 2006

Writer: Judd Winick
Penciller: Joshua Middleton
Inker: Joshua Middleton

Chapter Three: "Titans"

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

Click to enlarge

The Spirit of Vengeance is placed in a thousand black diamonds and scattered throughout the universe. One black diamond made it to Diablo, a remote Pacific island. Bruce Gordon fought with the stone's custodian and became possessed by Eclipso.

The wizard Shazam worries about Captain Marvel.

Mr. Spec, the spy who discovered Captain Marvel's secret last issue, now interrogates the homeless for clues to find Billy Batson. One homeless man warns the spy not to approach Billy.

Meanwhile, Superman and Captain Marvel approach Sabbac. Cap senses that Sabbac's powers are magic-based. Sabbac breathes fire at the heroes and flies away.

At the solar center, Eclipso arranges his black diamond on Bruce Gordon's solar machine, which causes the black diamond to possess everyone in the vicinity. Captain Marvel protects Superman by using his body as a magic shield to prevent Superman from being hit by the black diamond's energy.

Sivana watches as Eclipso's black diamond energy possesses the populace below and gloats to his assistant. Mr. Spec arrives and tells Sivana he's discovered Captain Marvel's address and how to attack him at his most vulnerable.

Superman interrupts Eclipso and they battle for the first time. Eclipso sends his possessed drones to attack the Man of Steel.

Captain Marvel battles Sabbac and Sabbac refers to certain Lords of Darkness filling his name (just as the ancient Gods form the acronym "Shazam" that transforms Billy Batson into Captain Marvel). With that, Cap makes Sabbac angry and is able to trick him into saying his own name, "Sabbac", which transforms him back into his easier-to-subdue alter ego.

Meanwhile, Superman uses his powers to gently extricate himself from the possessed people without hurting them. Using his super senses, the Man of Steel finds the bad guys who originally stole the artifacts praying around the pentagram. Superman destroys the pentagram and interrupts their ceremony, bringing the magically induced eclipse to an end. Eclipso vanishes back to the recesses of Dr. Gordon's mind.

Captain Marvel brings Sabbac to the wizard Shazam who imprisons him inside the Rock of Eternity. Superman brings the black diamond to his friend, Emil Hamilton.

The heroes regroup, bringing each other up to speed, and return to their private lives, the team-up mission presumably at an end.

Back in the abandoned subway station, Billy and his friend look at the newspaper headlines detailing Superman's and Captain Marvel's adventures. Billy hears a noise. Armed, uniformed men suddenly swarm around them - and open fire.

To be continued...

3Story - 3: Finally the story begins. And it took long enough. A two issue prologue that a writer like Elliott S! Maggin or Cary Bates (Superman writers from the 1970s and early 1980s) could have tagged to the beginning of this issue and made this issue the story's beginning. As a writer, I understand the desire to geek out like Winick did with last issue's silly Superman - Captain Marvel anything-I-can-do-you-can-do-better routine. But why can't DC's editors edit Winick's writing as well as the editors of his work in "Barry Ween" and the Pedro Zamora graphic novel?

In writing this review, I don't remember the first two issues and I already sent them to my nephew so I'm flying semi-blind this time out. This is exacerbated by the fact that the last issue came out THREE MONTHS AGO, and by the fact that there's an "Infinite Crisis" occupying my mind lately, and also admittedly by my almost 42-year old degenerating short term memory. Thankfully, the two issue set up doesn't matter much to the actual story which finally begins to unfold here.

Sivana hates Captain Marvel. Sabbac and Eclipso attack, giving Superman an opportunity to show the range of his power, and Captain Marvel the opportunity to demonstrate that his powers and domain are completely different from Superman's. So Superman and Captain Marvel aren't the same? Well Judd, where were you when Fawcett Comics needed you to testify in their legendary lawsuit filed by DC's predecessor company, which alleged that Cap was just a cheap knock-off of Superman?

Seriously, the lightness of Winick's writing style really works with Captain Marvel. Most of Winick's best work in comics has a whimsical edge to it - even the super-heavy "Pedro and Me". Captain Marvel actually seems like an overgrown wise kid here. Whether this is the result of Winick's intentional style or simply the unintentional end result of an immature, unedited writer remains to be seen.

3Art - 3: With the world eclipsed for a large part of the issue, I finally enjoyed Middleton's work. While his Superman has shades of 80s artist Gil Kane, I guess I expect a world that brings about a team-up of Big Blue and the Big Red Cheese to be brighter and more colorful than this. Nonetheless, I enjoyed several of the sequences very much this time around.

Nowhere does the artist's muted lighting of characters and backgrounds work better than in the opening page Eclipso origin flashback. Taking place in darkest space and darkest Africa, the opening page is a thing of beauty, particularly the first three panels any of which really belongs on a black velvet poster underneath a black light.

Another artistic highlight was Middleton's rendering of Captain Marvel using the rope that fastens his cape around his shoulders to tie his cape around Sabbac's head. The image itself is just so mischievous and silly - albeit effective - and the accompanying super-serious, Wisdom of Solomon-enhanced overgrown kid tough guy routine just makes it more comical. What a well-choreographed teaming of artist and writer in that sequence.

2Cover Art - 2: I'm not crazy about this cover. It makes Sabbac the star of the issue with co-stars Superman and Captain Marvel, and a cameo by Eclipso. Plus the smoke rising from Sabbac hits the side of Superman's head in such a way that Supey looks like Kal-L, the Earth-2 Superman (and if I have to explain who that is, you're clearly in the wrong place, or my mother, or both). On the plus side, DC's new logo looks bold and attractive in black ink with a blue-green background. I still miss the old DC bullet, but the new and improved, all-temperature logo is starting to grow on me. Just wish this cover would.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2006

February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006

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Check out the Comic Index Lists for the complete list of Superman-related comics published in 2006.