By: Kryptonian Detective
DC Entertainment may be behind Marvel Comics in terms of live action feature films, for now, but with the release of Superman Shazam: The Return of Black Adam, there is no doubt that DC is the king when it comes to animation. In the film, “Superman finds a foe who may be too powerful even for him to defeat in the murderous Black Adam. Fortunately, Black Adam’s real target is the Earth’s Mightiest Mortal–Captain Marvel. The film itself only runs 22 minutes, but is as a complete a story that any of the full length animated features DC has released. I’d go so far as to say, that it is of equal to higher quality then some of those full length features. Superman may get top billing in the title, but this is very much a Shazam/Captain Marvel origin story. Having said that, Superman is not just a side order of fries in this outing, he plays an important role in the picture.
I found the character of Superman was better utilized in this animated short, then he was in the full length features Justice League: The New Frontier, and Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. In those features, he seemed to just be there because he was a core member of the JLA. Here, Superman has a reason for being there. Clark Kent is writing a story on orphaned children in America. Not only is that an ingenious idea because it pulls the reader into Billy Batson world, but it is also one of the rare times we’ve seen Clark Kent do any journalism in these films.
I’ve had very minimal exposure to Captain Marvel/Shazam, only reading him in mini – series, one shots, or the occasional team up. This film is perfect for the uninitiated because it gives you the essentials of whom and what Shazam/ Captain Marvel are all about. For those who think the character is a cheap imitation of Superman, think again. Sure, the two characters look like twins when drawn by Ed McGuiness, but this animated short points out that aside from flight and invulnerability, the two are quite different.
Many have called Captain Marvel the comic book equivalent of the Tom Hanks film Big. Quite frankly that’s a fair assessment. This film is fun, action packed, light-hearted and inspirational. Watching it is a good reminder to all the jaded comic book fans who think that all comic book characters need to be dark and gritty, that they are wrong. That works for some characters, but this film and the Shazam character exemplify the core of what superhero comic books were intended to be.
The films storyline is the ultimate wish fulfillment fantasy. What young boy who’s ever perused the pages of a comic book hasn’t dreamed of being able to become their favorite superhero? That’s exactly what Billy Batson is able to do. Fun, is the one word that best describes Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam. Superheroes, magic, and a three way super powered slug-fest above and below Fawcett City make this film thoroughly enjoyable. Couple that with the poignant themes of choosing good over evil, overcoming the obstacles life throws your way, and finding the hero deep within oneself, and this animated short is a full length success.
The voice cast is splendid. Each actor is a perfect voice match for their roles. The animation is unique to anything we’ve seen in the full length features. It has more of a cinematic quality to it, as opposed to the direct comic book page to screen look viewers have become accustomed to. Whether you’re a fan of Superman, Shazam, DC Comics, or just good animated films, then Superman Shazam: The Return of Black Adam is definitely a title you should own.