Action Comics Weekly #626 (Shazam!)
“My Week in Valhalla, Chapter Four”
Writers – Roy & Dann Thomas
Pencils – Rick Stasi
Inks – Rick Magyar
Letters – Jean Simek
Colors – Nansi Hoolihan
Editor – Mike Gold
Today marks the first of two farewell chapters we’ll be checking out this week. Though it was never made plain in the published version, Shazam! was a short Showcase Presents feature, just like that four-part Catwoman serial we covered a few months back. If I were to guess, they were both intended as sort of “pilot episodes” to future series’. Catwoman would go on to receive a four-part mini series (not sure if that was initially pitched as an ongoing)… meanwhile, despite the promise of a follow-up coming out of this arc… the poor ol’ Big Red Cheese would get bupkis.
Maybe that’s for the best…
We open with the new Captain Nazi pitching a fit that he’s going to be left out of the big San Francisco Cyanide Spill! Ya see, he’s quite keen to… uh, “lock kiesters” with Captain Marvel. I’m… I’m not quite sure what it means to “lock kiesters”, and don’t think I want to. Anyhoo, he’s handed a belt that is equipped with a sort of Captain Marvel Locating Device… but that ain’t good enough. He informs the rest of the geeks that he’s the one giving orders now. I guess not even the bad guys can trust a guy called “Captain Nazi”.
We jump ahead to the flaming gas station where Billy Batson… and an innocent pump attendant have been left to die. Captain Nazi emerges from the smoke, recognizes Billy as a Valhalla Camper, and heads over to save him. No sooner is Billy un-gagged than he shouts that magic word!
Captains Marvel and Nazi spend the next page and a half fighting… wrapping up with Marv’ dropping a mountaintop onto Naz’.
Meanwhile in San Francisco, Billy’s bunkmate Sam is having second thoughts about… ya know, poisoning an entire city. The other campers start to dogpile him, and go to pour the cyanide into the drink anyway…
… when Captain Marvel arrives! He catches the goop before it splashes down… then lunges toward the campers to ensure no more can be poured.
He then… well, I’m not quite sure to be honest. I think he might chase the boys down… but, after he catches them he doesn’t actually do anything with them? He literally tells them that he’s “gotta fly”, and he just leaves them. We close out with the revelation that Captain Nazi survived having a mountain dropped on him… and the promise of a monthly Shazam! series, which… if based on this outing, thankfully didn’t follow.
This… never really came around, did it?
I’m pretty sure I expressed a bit of surprise after reading the first chapter of this… I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the decision to open with such a sub-par outing… especially considering this has Roy Thomas’ name on it! Turns out the reason for the sub-par first chapter was because… well, this is just a sub-par story all around. A friend on social media mentioned that this doesn’t read much like a Roy Thomas story, and I definitely gotta agree!
Let’s look at this as a chapter… we’ve had this threat of Captain Nazi built up over the past two weeks… and, the subsequent “kiester locking” lasts all of… four panels? Kind of a letdown… though, if they were really considering launching this into an ongoing, I suppose the had to save something for that.
The cyanide threat… was more much ado about nothing. I mean, Captain Marvel didn’t even drag the kids off to the police or anything. For all he (and we) knows, they shook off the shock of being confronted by Captain Marvel… and remembered that they had a few more canisters of the stuff in the back of the bus… and went right back to poisoning the Frisco-ites.
I guess my main complaint is that this just feels “undone” and certainly lacks every bit of the polish we’ve come to expect from a story bearing Roy Thomas’ name in its credits. Part of me wonders how the promised ongoing series would have went… but, I’m mostly just glad it didn’t. This story (and version of Cap) has been retroactively relegated to Earth-85, and I think we’re all better off for it.
Tomorrow: The return of… Gino?
Your Moment of Vartox:
|From Action Comics #499 (1979)
Cary Bates (w) / Curt Swan (a)
After meeting… and immediately falling in love with Lana Lang, “Vernon O’Valeron” holds out all of five minutes before spilling the beans on his entire origin story.