Warning: Minor SPOILERS for Batman/Superman #1
The young Billy Batson may be the most pure-hearted superhero in DC's Universe, but Batman and Superman have just watched him turn evil before their eyes. Which begs the question... how long until the Dark Shazam says his magic word?
Dc fans already knew that their hearts were going to be broken in the new Batman/Superman comic series, spinning out of the currently running Batman Who Laughs comic miniseries. There, the eponymous villain would launch his master plan: infecting six unknown heroes in DC's reality with the evil of the Dark Multiverse. Slowly but surely, they will be corrupted into the worst, darkest, and most vile versions of themselves... and only Batman and Superman can be trusted to find this 'Secret Six.' Well, make that Secret Five now that Shazam has been revealed as the first victim. And from the looks of it... he may already be beyond saving.
The identity of the first infected target has been revealed by DC in their own preview of Batman/Superman #1 arriving on August 14th, 2019. The preview doesn't reveal how The Batman Who Laughs is ultimately dealt with in his own series, but instead takes both Superman and Batman into the villain's twisted version of the Batcave. In the first pages of writer Josh Williamson and artist David Marquez's new mystery, the two toughest DC heroes discover a tease of what's to come... and an ambush.
The sight of a feral, deranged, sharp-toothed Robin will be nothing new to DC fans who have followed The Batman Who Laughs thus far (he's kept a few of them at his heel at nearly all times). And from the sounds of it, oblivious readers will assume that the young boy catching Batman by surprise is one of the evil sidekicks already introduced. The fate of those sidekicks will be wrapped up in The Batman Who Laughs #7 arriving in July, which writer Scott Snyder has confirmed will set up the first issue of Batman/Superman. As Snyder explained to Newsarama:
You’re not going to get to the end of The Batman Who Laughs and be left on a total cliffhanger. I wouldn’t do that. This series is way too important to me, and to Jock... It has a lot of closure, and I think fans will be satisfied with it as a single book. But there is a hook at the very end that leads you into Batman/Superman. It’s something that I think fans will get excited about - it might shock them, scare them and all of that. But it’ll also lead you toward what is one of Josh’s best stories he’s ever told.
I think Batman/Superman is going to be one of the best books of 2019-2020. I’ve read the first four issues, and it’s just fantastic. And David’s art is just out of control. It’s so good.
The praise for Williamson--currently changing The Flash's history in "Year One"--is reason to get excited. The same goes for Snyder's suggestion that the mystery may be one of the best received of the year. There's little doubt it has the potential to be a commercial success, since it's keeping up the best-selling trend of torturing DC's heroes (a tragedy fans may hate to see... but sure do love to read). David Marquez's role in that success shouldn't be underestimated either, as this preview more than demonstrates what the Avengers alum is bringing to the table. Especially once Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent recognize the twisted Robin as a former Justice Leaguer: Billy Batson.
Once Batman sends the boy flying across the Batcave, and Superman turns to kindness and hope that the boy isn't beyond saving, the truth comes out. He confirms that he was struck by one of The Batman Who Laughs's poisoned Batarangs, and has succumbed to the infection--in both mind and body. And just when readers think that the first confirmed member of DC's 'Secret Six' might actually be the easiest to contain, the boy lets the other, far more terrifying shoe drop.
While this may be a bombshell reveal that DC has effectively 'spoiled,' the next question both Batman and Superman are going to ask is the far more important one. Can this Billy still become Shazam? A chilling proposition that Williamson actually decided to answer personally, revealing the David Marquez/Alejandro Sánchez cover art to Batman/Superman #2 depicting the worst possible outcome. Shazam in all his lightning-surrounded, magically mighty glory, clutching the capes of the fallen Dark Knight and Man of Steel in his hands. The 'darker' differences in his costume explained by the evil, toothy grin visible beneath his hood. Take a look:
It will seem a shocking choice for fans of the hero, especially those brought into the fold by the hopeful and heartwarming Shazam! movie starring Zachary Levi. But it will also be a compelling question for fans of the hero, possessed of the power and magic to defeat both Batman and Superman easily. What if Billy Batson chose to be a bad kid? Sure, the evil he's been infected with is more extreme than most teenagers, but fans have rarely seen the worst parts of a child's mind manifested in the same way Shazam embodies the best. All things considered, DC may have spoiled the first member of the Secret Six--by giving readers a story they may have a hard time ignoring.
Those readers who are completely sold by this tease of the first villain-ized hero can mark their calendars for the full issue's release this August. For those still eager for more of a tease of Williamson's writing and Marquez's artwork, be sure to check out the rest of DC's Batman/Superman preview on their website, and make sure to read the official plot synopsis for Batman/Superman below:
Up in the sky, in the dark of the night, trust no one—for the Secret Six walk among us! Spinning out of the devastating events of DC’s THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS, Superman and Batman join toTo launch the new DC series, the first arc of BATMAN/SUPERMAN will follow the two titular heroes as they hunt down six infected heroes in the DCU—people revealed to be infected by the Batman Who Laughs with a deadly pathogen that violently transforms them into the evilest versions of themselves. The Dark Knight and the Man of Steel must journey into the depths of Gotham City to learn which of their fellow heroes has been transformed into the horrifying horseman of their most dangerous and deranged foe ever.
Batman/Superman #1 will be available at your local comic book shop on August 14th, 2019. The Batman Who Laughs #7 will be released on July 31st, 2019.