DCAU #212: Speak Now... or Forever Rest in Peace!

IN THIS ONE... Dr. Sivana and Black Adam have a way of controlling the Marvels' lightning.

CREDITS: Written by Steve Vance; art by John Delaney and Ron Boyd.

REVIEW: The Marvel Family is well-suited to the DCAU treatment as the franchise has often been drawn in a slightly cartoonier way than most superhero comics, dating back to C.C. Beck's cartoony style of the 40s. And kids working together against often wacky villains has an all-ages vibe to it that may have contributed to the Shazam brand getting so off-track in the more recent DC Universe. But in the 90s, Captain Marvel's adventures were at their modern-day apogee, and the elements from the comics play well as a "cartoon show" (as indeed, one might evaluate each issue of Adventures as a pilot for another DCAU show). The 90s set-up is a tiny bit more convoluted than the original, but it's all efficiently explained and the "sharing of power" Billy, Mary and Freddy must deal with is actually used as a plot point several times, so it's quite easy to follow.

With three heroes and two villains (Sivana and Black Adam), there's no room for a back-up story (though Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jack Ryder have a fun cameo at the journalists' conference, but McKinney the communications mogul from the first two issues too). I kind of love the short back-ups, but Speak Now avoids the emptiness I've often felt after the main story wrapped so quickly. Sivana has lots of gadgets to take Captain Marvel out, which makes him underestimate Billy Batson himself, while Adam kind of does the same with Mary and Junior, showing strong themes at work, though there's perhaps too much uncreative punching going on. Adam savagely punching children, including an unMarveled Billy, is even a little off-putting.

Vance as usual provides light humor, though this time, it feels dated. I'm not even sure the comic's intended audience would have gotten the Ross Perot joke at the time. Bits with bystanders questioning the relevance of news from Fawcett City, hardly the hub of American interest works better. But since the story starts in medias res, in the middle of a fight, and doesn't let up, there are few opportunities for levity. With extra pages, you'd think that would have been possible.
IN THE MAINSTREAM COMICS: These are the characters as portrayed in Jerry Ordway's Power of Shazam! series (note the Ordway Water Service Easter egg), with the three members of the Marvel Family sharing Shazam's finite power and heroing in Fawcett City, a place named, of course, after the publishing company at which Captain Marvel originated.

REREADABILITY: Medium - A straightforward action story that does its job, but doesn't do much beyond that.



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