Comics review: Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #19, Batman:BATB #20, Archie’s Pals ‘n’ Gals Double Digest #144

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #19

Written by: Art Baltazar and Franco
Art by: Mike Norton

This issue sets up the series’ final storyline, as this title is being canceled as of issue #21. Trying to save Billy from the aftermath of a villain’s attack, the heroes are forced to go to the Rock of Eternity to summon the wizard Shazam. Unfortunately for them, it also brings back Black Adam. Freddy Freeman also finally becomes Captain Marvel Junior (as the cover reveals, so not a spoiler).

As usual, this story was fun, and I’m pleased to finally see Capt. Marvel Jr. finally show up, though rather late in the title’s run. Nice to see Shazam’s capable of being as clever as the Marvel Family, as well. I look forward to the final few issues of this series (a villain reunion, it looks like), though I hate to see it getting axed. I certainly don’t plan on picking up whatever mainstream-DC Universe-set title features Captain Marvel these days (or rather Black Adam, since lately DC seems to favor Cap’s villain more than Cap himself; Adam fitting in better with their “grim and gritty” universe a likely reason why…).

A slight art error: at the top of page 13 (after she’s struck by Capt. Marvel’s lightning and changed back to normal), Mary is shown in her costume, but is correctly drawn in her street clothes for the remainder of the story.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #20

Written by: Robert Greenberger
Art by: Robert Pope

This month, the comic features a team up between Batman and Big Barda, a heroine from Apokolips and fellow New God Mister Miracle’s wife. Her marriage comes up as a driving point of the story (at least in Batman’s internal monologue), as she recruits Batman’s help to rescued her husband from Apokolips kidnappers.

It’s nice to see this version of Batman ponder, albeit briefly, the possibility of marriage, something his regular comic counterpart these days (having the emotions of the average car factory robot) could never possibly contemplate. Though per his question toward the end, I imagine a Ms. Kyle would be interested in answering…

Big Barda and the villains (the Female Furies) were also entertaining, though I’m not a huge New Gods fan. Miracle and Barda living in the suburbs is taken from their regular comics’ appearances, though I wonder what the neighbors must make of two extra-dimensional super-beings living next door. (Though from a few lines of Barda’s to a neighbor, fortunately they’re all on friendly terms…)

The backup story is a reprint of the Martian Manhunter tale from a few issues ago. Awfully soon to see a reprint, especially if this series is being canceled in a few months (though to be relaunched with a new #1).

Archie’s Pals ‘n’ Gals Double Digest #144

Written by: Various
Art by: Various

This month’s “Pals ‘n’ Gals” digest (yet another title ending soon, with a name change in a few months to the more modern-sounding “Archie and Friends Double Digest”) centers around summer activities, particularly those involving the beach or water. In one story, we see the Archie gang put on a medieval festival, with Reggie (unsurprisingly) playing the jester, which is his cue to do what he does best, i.e. pull pranks on everyone. Another story features the gang shipwrecked on an island with Jughead’s naval captain uncle.

Chuck Clayton puts in major appearances in two tales: the first, he’s trying to draw a new comic strip for Riverdale’s newspaper, while growing increasingly jealous of his girlfriend Nancy’s painting skills gaining more attention than his cartooning. In the second tale, Chuck’s on a camping trip with fellow secondary Archie characters Dilton (whose inventions keep undermining the point of “roughing it”) and Moose.

Backup tales in this issue include reprints of early 90s series “Archie 3000” (basically the Archie gang set in a 80s-styled 31st century), and one of the main reasons I bought this issue, Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Two of the three Sabrina tales seem to conflict with each other (maybe reflecting when they were originally printed). The first tale features Hilda in trouble for performing what Della the Head Witch perceives to be a “good deed” for her neighbors (albeit deeds done for selfish purposes), while the second tale shows Hilda and Sabrina using their powers to scare various corporate polluters into changing their ways. Though both stories are reprinted from the pre-sitcom days (thus Hilda is drawn resembling a stereotypical witch), I can’t say when they were originally printed, though suspect from the story and artwork the pollution tale might come from the early 90s (when environmentalism became more prominent).

Next month’s digest features more of Dilton, in the final “Pals ‘n’ Gals”-titled issue.

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