I haven’t been as excited by this standalone Justice Leaguer’s book as I had hoped, but this issue really got me back interested, seeing Cyborg and Shazam working side-by-side. I think this book has a great handle on art, I just wish there was more to this book story-wise. I think that Victor has a lot of great, meaty emotional storylines to delve into, and it seems like this issue is starting to push the character back in the right direction. I hadn’t seen much of the humor in this book being appreciated by the characters in it’s pages, so the jokey nature of some of the scenes was something that felt like a moment we had been waiting for, for EIGHT ISSUES now.
This issue opens with a page that thoroughly engrossed me, both because it showed Cyborg being silly and joking at a time where it FELT right, PLUS we get some sort of analogue to the Marvel “Brute Force” in this APTLY named Beast Force. Shazam and Cyborg are quipping up a storm, and this doesn’t sit well with the Zookeeper- not any sort of City Zoo Employee, that’s the baddies NAME… yikes! Again, the artwork is on point, and I really like the look of Cyborg and Shazam as they lay a savage (heh) beatdown on Bru… I mean Beast Force.
The humor in this book, as I said, is laid out right on front street. And it is helped by the fact that Cyborg is cracking jokes to what is in essence a tween/teenager (is Billy Batson even in 8th Grade???) whose level of humor is AT BEST categorized as “sophomoric”. When Cyborg said “Ive heard this city was a zoo, but this is ridiculous!” and Shazam responds “This city’s a zoo? That’s HILARIOUS!” you know that the jokes aren’t necessarily the best, but that the lighthearted camaraderie between these two dudes is pretty obvious. The book takes a bit of a Tarantino-esque approach to timelines, because afer that we jump back SIXTY days into the past, for some good old fashioned father-son time, and Cyborg’s dad is making a pretty substantial stack of pancakes for just two dudes…
There is a mention of The Island of Doctor Moreau, and more animal related puns when we flash backwards in time again, and we get to see more of the stable (heh) of animal minions that the Zookeeper has at his disposal. After that big splashy panel, we jump ahead again, this time only fifty-nine days into the future, where Bobby Zirrozinski (what a mouthful- couldn’t he have just been Bobby Thomas??) is brought in to meet with the Government agency who wants to regulate control and contain all of the people with cybernetic implants who were infected by the Technosapien invasion.
Bobby looks an awful lot different than I remember him from previous issues, and I just kept thinking to myself- “this dude looks like Owen Wilson in an eyepatch… IS THIS Owen Wilson in an eyepatch???” but other than that, we get some more talking, and time to digest the fact that Bobby and this Government Agency is coming for Victor, and want to take him into custody and study him (which is probably a very nice way of saying “vivisection” and “painful experimentation with knives lasers and whatnot”).
Then we flash forward again to Shazam and Cyborg wrapping up their battle against the herd of Zookeeper’s beasts, just in time for a few more jokes, and then a bit of a cliffhanger for the scene where Shazam sees something outside of the readers line of sight, and Cyborg says “Well, I see how that might appear to be ominous”. Then another jump in time where Cyborg shows his father the ghost of his mother that he discovered in the previous issues, and we get a gorgeous panel where his father looks comically mortified (but it’s to be expected- he is seeing a ghost of his dead wife).
Then we flash back to that “ominous” thing that turns out to be Owen Wilson, I mean Bobby and a team of mercs who are there to take Cyborg into custody. But again, this moment cannot pass without a good bit of humor passing between Cyborg and Shazam, where Cyborg remarks on how there are mercenaries with cybernetics, and they aren’t looking to find out how Cyborg keeps his metal parts “all fresh and shiny” to which Shazam asks “How DO you keep your metal parts all fresh and shiny?”.
The issue ends with a big splash page teasing the next issues big fight, with the tagline “Public Enemy #1” at the bottom. And I believe it- if Cyborg is going to take on a government sanctioned agency (even one as misguided as this one) he will not be seen favorably afterwords. I hope that the next issue gets plenty more big fight sequences, and we leave the leapfrogging timelines at the door, because I don’t think we need much in the way of backstory for this next issue- just plenty of slobberknockers and lightning bolts coming from Cyborg and Shazam, respectively. This was a decent issue, but I felt that the flashback/flashforward hurt the pacing a bit, but the art was great and the story, for all it’s pitfalls on the wibbly wobbly timey-wimey side really ended up working out well in the end, and teasing out a pretty big throwdown next issue.