REVIEW: ‘Infected King Shazam,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I don’t read Shazam!, I really never have. While I have loved animated iterations and of course the Zachary Levi’s take on the character, I still haven’t felt the need to pick up a comic. That was until it was announced that one of my favorite comic writers Sina Grace was helming a horror-adjacent one-shot crafted to fit into DC Comics‘ “Year of the Villain” event in The Infected King Shazam #1. 

Written by Grace, with art by Joe Bennett, inks by Belardino Brabo and Matt Santorelli, and colors by Hi-Fi, The Infected King Shazam #1 takes Billy Bastion in a whole new direction. We all know that Billy is a good kid who is constantly trying to do the right thing but what happens when a force of goodness like Billy meets one of the most dangerous serial killers in existence? That’s what this issue finds out as the Batman Who Laughs changes Billy. Spinning out of the events of Batman/Superman and “Year of the Villain.” Infected King Shazam #1 shows us what happens when a pure soul turns black and he searches for a family worthy of him.

While I don’t have too much familiarity with the comic version of Billy, I do know this – his family is everything. In Infected King Shazam #1, it’s nothing to him as he searches across the gods to find people that his corrupted soul sees as worthy of his presence, shaking the sky, and causing chaos in his wake. Grace’s dialogue for Billy is superb. It presents a stark contrast to the infected face of the once-hero Shazam as Billy quips and insults those around him. He, even when infected by the batarang of the Batman Who Laughs, he is a child.

The art in the issue from Bennet, Brado, and Santorelli work to keep the magical hero from ever becoming just a brat throwing a temper tantrum. Instead, throughout the issue, Shazam is an intimidating force, smashing Apollo, Thor, and others, even his own family. The demonic face he wears after corruption is a piece of the book that keeps him grounded against his child-like language and in ways pushes the issue into an unsettling space that works well for its horror-adjacent nature.

Overall, I can see The Infected King Shazam #1 carrying more weight for current readers than it did for me. While it’s easy to read for those with no background outside of animated or even the Levi film, the family dynamics are something that I can see long-time fans appreciating more than I do. Once transformed, Billy loses a bit of his emotional weight which makes the ending of this issue not hit as hard as I’m sure the creative team intended. That being said, Grace’s ability to write teenage language never feels shoehorned and he manages the duality of the infected hero extremely well.

As a continuation of “The Year of the Villain,” The Infected King Shazam #1 succeeds and necessitates further reading of the issues in the event, which at the end of the day, is what you want from something as expansive as “The Year of the Villain.”

The Infected King Shazam #1 is available wherever comics are sold.

Infected King Shazam #1
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TL;DR

As a continuation of “The Year of the Villain,” The Infected King Shazam #1 succeeds and necessitates further reading of the issues in the event, which at the end of the day, is what you want from something as expansive as “The Year of the Villain.”