Don’t take Candy or Train-Rides from Strangers!! (Shazam #2 Comic Review)
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Marco Santucci
Cover Artist: Dale Eaglesham & Alex Sinclair
Variant Cover: Chris Samnee & Matt Wilson
Colors: Mike Atiyeh
Letters: Rob Leigh
Previously in Shazam…
After returning home following a successful thwarting of an attempted museum robbery/hostage situation, Billy Batson and his adoptive siblings visit the Rock of Eternity, and discover a mysterious subway station, leading to several unknown realms. Meanwhile, Billy’s adoptive parents Rosa & Victor Vasquez receive an unexpected visitor, a man claiming to be Billy’s birth father…
Summary with limited spoilers
Resuming right where the first issue concluded, Rosa ends a rather despondent phone-call with Billy’s social-worker, Mrs. Glover, being rather frustrated at her for just giving Billy’s new home-address to this mysterious man. Rosa and Victor are both very worried over what this man’s appearance means, and what Billy might do upon meeting him, as Victor tries to reassure her, and points out that they owe to Billy to support a conversation between him and the man claiming to be his father, as they go to Billy’s room to tell him, finding Billy absent, then checking on their other children and noticing they’re all gone too.
The book then returns to the Rock of Eternity and the Shazam family investigating the strange subway. Everyone but Mary seems eager to explore the strange realms on the posted map, with her feeling very concerned over the potential danger present there. The others continue to try and convince Mary, with Billy pointing out the first time he arrived at the Rock of Eternity and met the Ancient wizard was through a subway, feeling there must be some connection. But Mary counters with the fact that this part of the Rock of Eternity must have been closed off for a reason. Before she can say more, Freddy’s made his way onto the train leading to “Funland”, and the family votes to go there, with Mary being the only vote no, though she admits to being outvoted and relentingly goes along. As the kids notice various fun things within the train (a popcorn maker, an arcade cabinet), Freddy finds the button to start the train, and with a crack of lightning and thunder, the train flies off.
The comic then briefly cuts to Dr. Sivanna, visiting a doctor’s office as he studies a spellbook he’s found, as the comic reveals he’s now working with the mind-controlling slug Mister Mind.
The comic then returns to Billy and the others and they arrive in Funland, a place filled with mobs of happy children, balloons, and roller coasters. As Mary rightfully questions where all the other kids came from, the rest of the family convince her to let them explore for an hour.
Returning to Sivanna and Mister Mind, the doctor examining him asks Sivanna about his own doctoral status, and questions why a man in his forties like Sivanna looks so old, as Mister Mind cries out to Sivanna that they need the man’s tongue. Sivanna attacks the doctor, the book he’s been reading falling to the floor, open on two pages about Mister Mind, the comic then cutting away as Sivanna continues his attack on the doctor.
The comic once again returns to the Shazam family, as they all seem to be having fun, though Billy notices a boy running away from a group of smaller kids carrying a birthday cake and wishing the fleeing boy a happy birthday. Before Billy and Freddy can discuss it much further, they notice a commotion going on nearby, as a crowd has gathered around another train…
Opinions on story and art
This was another fun installment for the most part! The issue features a new penciller (unfortunate after how great Dale Eaglesham’s pencils were in the previous issue), with Marco Santucci, and I think he does a great job. He keeps the characters and settings on-model from #1, and the realization of Funland is good. The place feels like a modern version of Pleasure Island, but with the kids themselves looking like they stepped out of a Newsboys stage-production.The stand-out moment of the comic visually for me has got to be the opening, as I really felt for the Vasquezes in this real-world dilemma. And Mike Atiyeh’s colors captured the vibrancy of Funland, and the dark, gross, inside of Sivanna’s ear very effectively!
The storytelling is pretty engaging too, with the strangeness of Funworld and the contrast of the environment and the kids populating it being so bizarre. Between this, the brief cutaways to Sivanna and Mister Mind’s machinations (finally following up on the cliffhanger from New 52’s Justice League #21) and Billy’s father’s appearance, there are numerous mysteries being set-up that are definitely keeping my interest.
Characterization-wise the book remains decent, although I worry that Mary may be falling into the “older girl mothering all the others” category a bit too hard? It would’ve been nice to see her enjoying Funworld at least a little bit herself, perhaps while riding the teacups with Darla. Also, a minor nitpick, but Eugene as the nerd/geek of the group wanting to go to “The Gamerlands” because of his enjoyment of first-person shooters felt a bit off. I feel like that’s a gameplay-style Freddy might enjoy more, though I admit I could be projecting a bit. I do genuinely appreciate Billy being the middle-ground between his other siblings’ enthusiasm and Mary’s skepticism.
Overall the story was engaging, with great art, fun potting and decent characterization. Dale Eaglesham’s departure from the book is disappointing, but the comic still has my undivided attention and interest.