by Neil Cole
"Superman/Shazam: Return of Black Adam" offers fans of the DCU a brand new animated short to revel in, along with the three previously released DC Showcase animated shorts; "The Spectre", "Jonah Hex" and "Green Arrow", four bonus episodes collected from various DC animated shows, and commentary from the DC Showcase writers on how they do justice to lesser-known DC characters in animated short format.
Joaquim Dos Santos has been the man in charge of putting out the animated short films under the DC Showcase banner. Santos has done a wonderful job each and every time, taking non-mainstream characters of the DC universe and transforming them into heroes of interest in the space of approximately fifteen minutes.
In "Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam", Billy Batson (Zach Callison) is a scrappy young kid barely getting by on the streets of Fawcett City. Despite his own bleak situation, Billy has a good heart, plenty of courage and tries to help others however and whenever he can. One day, while being interviewed about his life of poverty by renowned reporter Clark Kent (George Newbern) from Metropolis, Billy is attacked by Black Adam (Arnold Vosloo), a magically-empowered supervillain who has traveled back from his banishment in the far reaches of the universe in order to kill Billy Batson, whom he recognizes as the next “chosen one.”
Of course Billy has no idea what Adam is talking about and is seconds away from being fried into a corpse until Superman just so happens to intervene. But even The Man of Steel’s formidable powers can’t overcome Black Adam’s magic – only a fabled hero powered by the ancient wizard Shazam (James Garner) can save the day, and little does Billy Batson know that he is about to become that hero... the new Captain Marvel (Jerry O’Connell).
The Return of Black Adam runs about twenty minutes or so and is basically a drag-out grudge match between Black Adam, Superman and Captain Marvel – truly a great combination. Aside from the obvious awesomeness of watching three of the DC Universe’s strongest characters battle it out, there’s also the humor of watching Billy Batson literally stumble through his first turn as a superhero. It’s also rare that you witness Superman getting his butt whipped, so seeing Black Adam slap him around due to his vulnerability to magic is pretty refreshing.
All in all, Santos does a great job yet again, and I certainly came away from this particular animated short fully convinced that a Shazam! movie could work as a live-action feature, if the filmmakers simply follow blueprint laid out by Santos (a spirited kid is given the powers of Superman, action and humor ensue).