SHAZAM! #14 finally brings the thirteen part epic, “The Magiclands,” to a close. Of course, it took longer than thirteen months to get there and that will, for a long time coming, be a major point of criticism for this series. Leaving that off, looking back at the story as a “trade waiter,” however, what marks will this tale leave?
The initial timing of the series was shortly before the release of the major motion picture of the same name and there was an obvious effort to get Billy Batson and the rest of the SHAZAM! family aligned somewhat with the movie version. To an extent this makes a lot of sense given Johns’ involvement with the cinematic side of the house. To that end, the story works quite well. The introduction of The Magiclands, as I noted in early reviews, expands on the mythology of the character franchise in a very interesting and productive way, and moreso in a way that could lend itself towards film adaptation sometime in the future. But as the distance grew between between the comics story and film narrative, the visibility of these ties grew less tangible and the result was an astounding amount of recap and revisiting over the course of these issues. This final issue starts with five pages of recap and summary (with stunning Dale Eaglesham art) that feels simultaneously insulting and necessary.
There are a number of points throughout the arc where it felt like Johns simply recruited a number of artists to just come and play in a sandbox with him. Sometimes, that pure escapism is a joy in and of itself but the repetitiveness of epically decompressed story grows equal tedious in moments. Speaking to the flurry of artists, most issues featured multiple artists, with this final issue no different. Scott Kolins does most of the heavy lifting once again in this issue and with the exception of the “Flash War” epilogue he drew, the SHAZAM! work has consistently been the best of his career. There’s very little I enjoy more than seeing an artist continue to grow and develop over time and Kolins has certainly continued to grow in wonderful ways. Coupled with Michael Atiyeh’s ability to color anything and everything and you have a great looking book even when the story lulls.
So to revisit the earlier question– what mark does this leave? Superboy Prime is back in rotation, having been freed and turned over the Justice League. I would expect that to be a detail that, like so many Johns works these days, will not come up in anybody else’s writing. The Johnsverse seems a continuity unto itself that nobody else is allowed/willing to touch and that is problematic when dealing with the biggest stories and characters in the DCU. The final page depicting the Seventh Champion (I’m not spoiling it, so you’ll have to read who it is in the book or at one of those other sites) seems to build an interesting wrinkle that could be fun if this series had survived the DC slash and burn of titles (next issue will be the final issue with another standalone tale by Jeff Loveness and Brandon Peterson). All in all, the series felt cut short for an arc that took nearly two years to wrap and the final takeaways feel like they could more effectively populate a six issue mini-series. I’m not sorry for all the time I have devoted to SHAZAM! over that time period as both a fan and a critic but its not something I imagine I’ll be revisiting in the future and certain doesn’t carry any sort of “must-read” tagline. Read it if you like SHAZAM but if you don’t, skip it with no fears that you’re missing anything important.
SHAZAM! #14 (@geoffjohns @daleeaglesham @ScottKolins @atiyehcolors) finally delivers the end of "The Magiclands," leaving fans and critics to debate whether the wait was worth it or not.
SHAZAM! #14: The Magiclands Finale
- Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
- Storyline - 7.5/107.5/10
- Art - 9/109/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10