Knight Terrors: Shazam #1 is published by DC Comics, written by Mark Waid, pencils by Roger Cruz, inks by Wellington Diaz, colors by Arif Prianto, and letters by Troy Peteri. This is part of the Knight Terrors event. Mary Marvel is considered the protector of her family, but that is difficult when she can’t tell what is a dream and a reality.
This issue has a fascinating structure as it flicks back and forth between the real world and the dream world created by Insomnia. Or so we thought. The issue literally bounces page by page from the house to something quirky, until the weird things begin to happen when Mary is awake as well. This shatters any semblance of place or sanity, brilliantly unsettling. To jolt the nerves even further is the violence. A sudden, shocking fire is only the start of attempts to devastate Mary’s family, leading her to scramble and try and save her large family. Waid brilliantly lawyers the nightmare to a point where the surface seems entirely unreachable. After an encounter with the villain of the whole event, the horror reaches a new depth, grotesque and disturbing. That is before the ending of the issue is horrifying and loud, delivering one the most devastating moments of the whole event so far.
It is interesting that Waid chose Mary as the focus for Knight Terrors: Shazam #1. Part of that could be due to the difference in dynamics from Billy, and the family as a whole, and Mary. Billy is often on his own, separate from the group as a solo hero. Whereas Mary is a hero as well as and a caretaker for her siblings. It follows the trend within these tie-ins that the superheroes are more concerned about their loved ones than their own safety. It has been amusing and fascinating that multiple writers have made comments through the dialogue that the characters can see through illusions and understand tricks, yet still find themselves tortured by the nightmares anyway. It’s an example of the power Insomnia has to grind the characters down. Billy does make an appearance in this comic, and how he does emerge is gut-wrenching. The unrelenting nature of the villain, unable to reason or stop him, makes the protagonist look helpless.
The art is fantastic. At the start of the tie-in, it is lively and energetic, able to match the fun that can be had with comics featuring the Marvels. It has cameos from villains and glimpses at fights, before turning Mary back to her normal self. But when the issue is at its most dramatic, the book becomes terrifying. Even when you know it isn’t real within what isn’t already real, it still invokes a reaction. There are creatures and dramatic landscapes that, whilst freaky, aren’t where the horror comes from.
A character appears next to Mary, like a Ghost of Christmas Nightmares, and the design of that is clever and unnerving. The real fear comes from what Cruz and Diaz are unafraid to show. The final page uses a similar panel layout, with a frequent concept. But that allows for a repeated, painful punch that escalates in its drama and the reaction it draws from Mary. It’s grim and truly dark, verging on pitch black.
The colors are also utilised brilliantly. The brightness of the lightning has often been used as a notion of hope and positivity within Shazam comics, as it brings power and transformation with it. Here, that lighting is weaponised, and the brightness becomes jarring and traumatising. The lettering is excellent, with large word balloons demonstrating Mary’s panic.
Knight Terrors: Shazam #1 makes the mind spin. Stripping away any ability to recognise what’s real or not, the repetition in this issue seeks to disorient. That effect is achieved tremendously, with both the main character and reader traveling through in a daze. It’s almost numbing, the opposite of bracing for what is to come. That means the final pages hits like a freight train. Family has been targeted in the Kight Terrors tie-ins already, but it hasn’t been done with the force and ferocity that is seen here.
Knight Terrors: Shazam #1
Knight Terrors: Shazam #1 makes the mind spin. Stripping away any ability to recognise what’s real or not, the repetition in this issue seeks to disorient. That effect is achieved tremendously, with both the main character and reader traveling through in a daze.