Sunday, 22 August 2010

Superman/Shazam: First Thunder! #3

First Thunder Part 3: Titans

Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Joshua Middleton
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Associate Editor: Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Artist: Joshua Middleton
Cover Date: January 2006
Release Date: 02/11/2005

The wizard Shazam narrates the secret origin of Eclipso. Knowing that his champion is about to face Eclipso in battle, Shazam fears for Captain Marvel. Spec speaks to the homeless of Fawcett City, looking for information on the boy he saw Captain Marvel turn into. One old man is able to give him some information, and Spec asks for a name.

Superman and Captain Marvel arrive at the site of the demonic ritual. Although Marvel doesn't recognise Sabbac, he recognises the strong magical powers within him. The two engage, but Sabbac belches fire all over them and flies away. Meanwhile, Eclipso uses the Fawcett City Solar Center to broadcast the energy from the black diamond into the sun, causing rays of black light to fall onto the city, turning anyone they touch into Eclipsos. Superman saves Captain Marvel from one of these rays, and the two turn to face their increasing problems.

Doctor Sivana observes the chaos from the top of his building. Spec arrives with a piece of paper bearing the secret of Captain Marvel's vulnerability.

Eclipso is gloating over his success when the machinery used to spread his influence is suddenly destroyed by Superman. The two fight, and Eclipso uses his posessed minions to attack. Meanwhile, Captain Marvel and Sabbac trade blows. Sabbac is gloating and monologuing, and accidentally gives away that his name is the source of his power. Superman uses his powers to vibrate the air around him, repelling the posessed people, and the uses his super-breath to provide a cushion for them to fall on. Having broken free, Superman races into the sky, and locates the cavern where Sabbac was summoned. Breaking in and destroying the seals within causes the darkness over the sun to withdraw, diminishing Eclipso's power and freeing his minions, including Bruce Gordon. With the sun returned, Captain Marvel is able to face off more effectively against Sabbac. Taunting and teasing him, Marvel makes Sabbac so mad that he yells out his name, returning to human form. Marvel then grabs the human by his mouth, preventing him from re-summoning his power.

Superman and Marvel say their goodbyes, with Superman feeling more comfortable about the world of magic, knowing that he has an ally who can stand up to that power. Marvel changes back into Billy and returns to his shelter, where he discusses the events with Scott. A noise alerts them, and suddenly they are confronted by a group of soldiers, who open fire.

So, this would be the fighting issue, then? We get a full issue of Superman and Captain Marvel vs Eclipso and Sabbac. I'm not quite sure why Eclipso needs to be here, displaying a command over his powers that wasn't otherwise present during the earlier years of Superman's life. Thematically his presence makes a kind of sense, a random element thrown into the mix as a result of Sivana's work with Sabbac, but all he does is occupy Superman and keep him from engaing with Sabbac. When the whole gist of Superman's involvement in this story is to confront his fears and concerns about his ability to face off against magical forces, giving him an easy option to back out of a fight with a supremely mystical being and having him bow out after a couple of punches feels like a cop out. But as we're talking about Superman's resistance to magic, one panel has Superman countering Ecliso's black diamond energy beam thingy with his heat vision, and succeeding. If Superman is able to face down the power of the former Spirit of Vengeance with his heat vision, then why does he have concerns about facing magical enemies? Why does he even have a weakness against such foes?

As is becoming a regular trait with this series, we have more examples of dialogue that just doesn't fit the mouths from which it springs. Eclipso taunts Superman, telling him that he smells of flesh and blood and bone, that he smells mortal. And what does Superman respond with? 'Good. I won't tell you what you smell of.' Wow, this has all the sharp, biting wit of a six year old who doesn't like being called stinky-pants. This isn't the Man of Steel, the figurehead of all heroes on Earth, and reading such poor dialogue coming out of Superman's mouth is just painful. And let's just not start of Superman vibrating the air around him to provide enough kinetic energy to repel twenty of so humans and then directing enough of his breath quickly enough to cushion their fall without blowing them away. My science-type brain kinda melted when I read that.

The Geeky Bits: Joshua Middleton is mainly known as a cover artist, although he has occasionally been an interior artist. He started at CrossGen with the title Meridian in 2000, and next surfaced as the penciller for the 2004 series NYX. However, Middleton's work is often subject to delays, partly because of his all-encompassing work that sees him pencil, ink and colour his own work. Middleton was nominated for an Eisner award for his covers for NYX in 2004.

Next on World of Superman: We finish off First Thunder! Are you prepared to cry? Because the creative team would like you to.

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