Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mauro Cascioli Does the Art on TRIALS OF SHAZAM #10


With issue #10 of TRIALS OF SHAZAM, Mauro Cascioli provides both the interior and cover art. The question is this... is he a permanent replacement for Howard Porter (as permanent as 2 remaining issues can be) or is he simply giving Porter some breathing room to finish up the last two issues of this long, drawn-out (pun intended) story?

Porter has been the shining star of TRIALS OF SHAZAM, an ill-conceived updating/continuation/adultification of the Marvel Family mythos. Judd Winick's story provides little excitement as Freddy Freeman tries to prove himself worthy of the title of Shazam. Winick's Freeman is bland. I can't imagine that even the fans who claim to enjoy this story can find Freddy very appealing. He is a one-dimensional character who, incredibly, is out-shone by the equally bland villainess of the tale.

Perhaps that is about to change as Cascioli's cover conveys a sense of real menace to Freddy's opposite number, Sabina. Cascioli's cover of Sabina has eschewed Porter's suburban Mean Girls persona of the character into one that looks genuinely frightening. And that's an unfortunate criticism of Porter's work as there wasn't anything truly scary in TRIALS OF SHAZAM up to this point (well, other than the trampling over of the Marvel Family cast of characters).

If Winick's intent was to Vertigo-ify the Marvel Family mythos with monsters and goblins, Porter's artwork seemed to work against that. It seems like Cascioli may bring that unease to the series.

That's not to say that I'm hoping for that. I would prefer nothing better than for TRIALS OF SHAZAM to fade away like a bad dream in the light of day. Because really, the Marvel Family were born to be bright, shining stars ... super-heroes ... not characters who could give John Constantine a run for his money.

The solicitation of TRIALS OF SHAZAM #11 will reveal if Howard Porter is coming back to the title. I don't know what caused the long delay between issues, perhaps he couldn't find inspiration in Winick's script or maybe he misjudged how long it would take him to complete each issue but if it is illness or personal problems, I certainly hope that Mr. Porter recovers.




TRIALS OF SHAZAM! #10 (OF 12)
Written by Judd Winick; Art and Cover by Mauro Cascioli

Sabina and Freddy race to find the hidden Mercury…as this test is about gaining his speed ability! And if Sabina finds him first, she'll be equal to Freddy in the ultimate Trials for Shazam's power!

DC Universe 32pg. Color $2.99 US

On Sale November 28, 2007

Thursday, August 9, 2007

BLACK ADAM: THE DARK AGE #1

*** CAUTION - MINOR SPOILERS ***
BLACK ADAM: THE DARK AGE #1 - Doug Mahnke coverWith one issue, writer Peter Tomasi and artists Doug Mahnke with Christian Alamy & Norm Rapmund have blown Judd Winick and Howard Porter's TRIALS OF SHAZAM clear out of the water. This first of a six issue mini-series has more story to it than the 7 issues of TRIALS OF SHAZAM combined.
Tomasi wastes no time getting us introduced to Teth-Adam — the mortal host of the villainous Black Adam who was left depowered by the end of 52 at the hands of Captain Marvel. Adam's a wanted man for the genocide he committed on the country of Bialya. His despiration and mental imbalance is evident from the very first page as he endures a brutal beating so that he can walk the streets of his adopted country, Kahndaq, unmolested. It's clear that Adam doesn't fear the reprisal of the country and citizens he embarassed and abandoned. He is a man with a mission and for that he must be unrecognizable.

Adam's mission is to retrieve the remains of his dead wife, Isis. It is a mission fraught with danger, intrique, death, and self-relience. Tomasi, a former DC Comics editor, has written a page-turner that contains very little lolly-gagging - the most notable being the scenes with the JSA on his trail.

BLACK ADAM: THE DARK AGE #1 - Alex Ross variantFortunately, DC paired Tomasi's story with an artist that could do it true justice. Doug Mahnke has a unique style that stands out from the rest of his peers. I've been a admirer of Mahnke's work since discovering it on Dark Horse's THE MASK with writer John Arcudi. Mahnke also paired with Arcudi on DC's MAJOR BUMMER — a wonderful little comic that was, unfortunately, short-lived. Here in Adam's tale, Mahnke takes us to the darkest corner's of a man's soul. Mahnke doesn't shy away from some of the grittier scenes provided by Tomasi: brutal beatings, gun-shot wounds to the head, and cannabalism. But Mahnke's beautiful last page more than makes up for the carnage that preceeded it.

The gore-level isn't for everyone but this is Black Adam at his baddest and teen-agers should eat it right up ... pun intended!

BLACK ADAM: THE DARK AGE #1 is a perfect primer for how a comic book should be written. It draws you in with its compressed story-telling and marvelous artwork. It's a shame, however, that although DC understands Black Adam so well, after 7 issues of TRIALS OF SHAZAM still doesn't get the magic of Captain Marvel.



BLACK ADAM: THE DARK AGE #1
Written by Peter J. Tomasi; Pencils by Doug Mahnke; Inks by Christian Alamy and Norm Rapmund; Cover by Mahnke; Variant cover by Alex Ross

Spinning out of the weekly series 52 comes an epic 8-issue mini-series that follows Black Adam, the new ├╝ber-villain of the DCU!

With the power of the gods stripped from him, Teth-Adam is on a quest to find not only the magical word that will restore him as Black Adam, but also the one thing that always kept his heart from turning completely black with rage.

Black Adam is a man responsible for the deaths of thousands of Bialyan citizens and wide spread destruction across the globe. He is a man on the run from Earth's heroes, who want to see him brought to justice. Some want him tried before a world court, while others want retribution; to exact a pound of flesh for the lives he has snuffed out. And some simply want him dead as quickly and as quietly as possible.

DC Universe • 32pg. • Color • $2.99 US

On Sale August 8, 2007