ACW #625 – Shazam!

Action Comics Weekly #625 (Shazam!)
“My Week in Valhalla, Chapter 3”
Writers – Roy & Dann Thomas
Pencils – Rick Stasi
Inks – Rick Magyar
Letters – Jean Simek
Colors – Tom Ziuko
Editor – Mike Gold

Hard to believe we’re already to the penultimate chapter of our Shazam! feature!  These “short-subjects” just fly on by, don’t they?  Catwoman was similarly “blink and you miss it”… only difference tween that and this is, that one didn’t fall apart until the very end!

Picking up where we left off last week, Billy has fallen through a rooftop window right into the arms of the newly-minted Captain Nazi.  After asserting that he has no “Jewish blood” in him, the big bad lets him down.  The Sons of Valhalla leaders are near-giddy that their experiment was a success, they don’t even really mind the interloper.  In fact, Leader Davis appears to appreciate the boy’s moxie.  He allows Billy-as-Duane to sit in and watch as they run Captain Nazi through his paces.

His fists are like hammers, and he has the ability to fly.  Davis takes it a step further when he brandishes a pistol and fires a shot right at the Captain.  C.N. manages to catch the bullet without even thinking… he then uses his “Eyes of Surtur” heat-vision to melt the piece.

Davis then turns his attention to Billy.  He feels he owes him an explanation of sorts.  If you remember the armored car standoff from Chapter One, well it turns out Leader Davis kinda knew how that would all play out.  He sorta sent Duane’s (the kid who Billy is impersonating) father out as a sacrificial lamb.  He knew Captain Marvel was living in San Francisco, and also knew this standoff would cause him to show up.  When he did, the Sons of Valhalla recorded his “Alpha Wave Pattern” (whatever the hell that is), so now they’ll always know anytime the Big Red Cheese is within 100 miles of them.  Convoluted? Nahhh…

We ain’t done yet, though!  It’s also here that we learn what Leader Davis has planned for Camp Valhalla’s “Graduation Exercise”.  The boys will bus into San Francisco, and… get this… dump cyanide into the water supply.

We jump to the next day, where all of the boys are getting loaded on the bus.  All of the campers are pretty gung-ho about the exercise… except for Billy/Duane and his bunkmate, Sam.  Once on the open road, however, the driver commands that “Duane McCullers” be bound and (naturally) gagged.  Ya see, Billy Batson’s a pretty famous TV reporter… so, it stands to reason he might just be recognized.  Whoops.  Well, actually… no, nobody actually recognized him.  I mean, if a local station had a “kid reporter”, I think most people in and around that city might be able to point him out of a line-up.  Turns out, the real Duane shows up and spills the beans.

The bus driver pulls into a gas station, smacks the attendant with the butt-end of his rifle, then sets the place on fire… leaving poor bound and (most importantly) gagged Billy among the flames!

Now, this just ain’t very good, is it?

Before getting into the story proper, I feel like the bit on the bus drew a bit too much attention to Billy Batson-as-celebrity.  It’s one of those things that, really, should be obvious.  I mean, how many major market television news outlets have a well-known “kid reporter”?  Stands to reason if one did, people might be able to recognize him… even if it’s only to locals… which this whole gaggle of geeks happens to be!

I’m all for “suspending disbelief”… I mean, this is comic books.  But, if we’re going to accept that Billy Batson can work “undercover”, we need not draw attention to the fact that he’s a pretty famous kid!  This is like pointing out that Superman hangs around with Lois Lane a bit much… or Batman endangers the lives of children… it’s stuff we (the readers) can know and point out, but when the folks inside the story do, it kinda opens a novelty can of spring-loaded worms.  Least it does to me!

With that out of the way… the story.  Now, I’m on record as being mostly ignorant regarding all things Captain Marvel.  He’s a character I really want to dig… but, I’ve never actually “put in the work”.  I can own that… I’m not going to pretend I have this deep fandom when I actually don’t (that’s a rarity on the internet, ain’t it?!).  That being said… I have this nagging feeling that this just isn’t “right”.  Ya know?  This doesn’t feel like “Captain Marvel” to me.

I couldn’t tell ya what Captain Marvel should actually feel like… for one, I’m not digging the current Geoff Johns “Burger King Kid’s Club” Shazam! stuff… but, this feels even a step behind that.  Really not sure how an ongoing of this sort of Cap would have worked.

Overall… it looked pretty okay, but at the end of the day, this was a three-chapter build-up to a likely underwhelming Captain on Captain fight scene.

Tomorrow: The Secret Six are back to business-as-usual… groan.

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