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Thursday, May 17, 2012 

A bad step made with Billy Batson

This review on Crave Online of Justice League #8 and the Shazam backup story let us know that Geoff Johns is intent on proving himself one of the most awful modern writers. First, what does this tell about the League itself:
...it's thus established that the Justice League has been the original seven and only the original seven for the past five years since that first story we waded through with the Fart of Darkness and all. Gone are the days of a massive, sprawling team of heroes, when you could call the League and never know who you're going to get. [...]

In the epilogue, we get a much more interesting reveal - that the reason the League is so insular and closed off is because they actually DID try to add a new member once, and it ended very badly. Cue a huge Jim Lee splash page of the entire team fighting the Martian Manhunter. That's right, the guy who once boasted the credentials of having been on absolutely every incarnation of the Justice League is now the poster boy for not letting anyone else on the team at all.
And even if Green Arrow, who's been clamoring to get a membership on their team, is allowed to join, something tells me this'll still be one of the biggest jokes of modern comics. If the Avengers, X-Men and Teen Titans can have plenty of different members and team field leaders, why can't the Justice League? It's not like Superman has to be present and leading the team in every single mission.

But now, onto the desecration of the former Capt. Marvel, Billy Batson:
The back-up story is Part 2 of the new origin of Shazam, wherein 15-year-old Billy Batson goes to meet his new foster family. It was revealed last issue that he acts sweet to get what he wants, but in actuality, he's an insufferable snot, and that was a huge kick in the junk to longtime Captain Marvel fans. Here, he bickers hatefully with the orphanage caretaker before meeting the new foster siblings - including Mary and her pet bunny Hoppy, Freddy Freeman, a kid named Pedro, a kid named Eugene and a loving little girl named Darla. All of whom he instantly either pisses off or makes cry by being nasty. Then the scene happens that you see heading up this page.

[...] what was always so compelling about Billy Batson, when done right, is that he found a way to be exempt from the need to be edgy and dark and in-your-face. So many other characters, that works well for, and there's certainly a place for it. But not Billy.

Not this kid.

The kid who's inherently altruistic and manages to hold to that in the face of the unrelenting nightmare of this world - THAT story is a hell of a lot more unique and interesting than one more jerk-makes-good story on the pile. We've seen Johns' jerks, and they never stop being as annoying as Hal Jordan even when they've ostensibly grown up and seen the light. So there's little hope for poor Billy.

Making Billy Batson a dick is a stunningly instantaneous way to kill hope and interest in the story. The New 52 is not without its success stories, but it's also alarmingly full of apathy towards characters we once found compelling. Sure, there was likely a lot of that before the reboot, too, but now we've got disappointment on top of the apathy. It's just makes things more depressing than they need to be.
So this is what Johns thinks makes for a perfect Billy Batson? In that case, why should we have to believe what Johns said in this tedious tripe that the League "will be more human than ever before"? That's probably why the Crave Online reviewer said that Hal Jordan's become annoying - Johns must've really turned him that way more than any other writer of recent times, and the rest of the League may not be far behind. As I've learned from reading a few message boards, the "daddy issues" seen in the catastrophous Green Lantern movie have turned up in the GL series as well. If it was before the movie, then the scriptwriters took some of the most dreadful add-ons Johns made and injected them into what would become an embarrassing screenplay. If they turned up after the movie, than that's only bound to guarantee moviegoers will be all the more discouraged from taking a look at the comics.

So there we've learned that the DCnU take on Billy Batson, thanks to Johns' pretentious approach to giving heroes problems to deal with, only serves to make it less plausible that the wizard who's giving Billy his gift would even bother in the first place. I hesitate to think of what's going to happen with Mary Marvel and Capt. Marvel Junior. If there was ever a reason to avoid this new series like the plague, I'd say the desecration of Capt. Marvel in the backup feature is it.

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Geez, that sounds awful.

What happened to Johns, anyway? He used to write a solid, all-ages Stars and Stripe, followed by JSA. Then he moonlighted at Marvel for a few months, wrote the infamous Ant Man/Wasp "spelunking" scene, and has been way, waaaaay off the rails ever since.

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