DC Universe: Challenge of Shazam, Chapter 4: Darkness at the End of the Tunnel

by Blackwolf247, Cynthia Finnegan and Arcademan

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Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Fawcett City, Jim and Susan Barr were enjoying a rare moment of free time and having a picnic in the park when Susan pointed toward the sky over the city.

“Jim, the sky — it’s suddenly turning pitch-black. What’s going on?”

“Only one person I know can create such darkness: Darkling. Quick! Into our costumes!”

Moments later, two figures streaked across the sky with the speed of bullets, toward Fawcett City and the darkness.

Bulletman and Bulletgirl were well aware of the power of Darkling, and they activated their Shazam’s Squadron of Justice emergency beacons as they flew. Minute Man answered. He, Spy Smasher, and the new Mister Scarlet and Pinky the Whiz Kid were just beginning a combat training session, and in the Gyrosub they could be there in minutes. So the Bullets slowed their headlong flight and waited for reinforcements.

That was probably not their best choice, as Chain Lightning saw the Gyrosub coming and called in her own reinforcements. She blasted Black Dionysius, Black Athena, and Black Sheba with magic lightning, and they regained consciousness as they changed. Chain Lightning pointed out the approaching Squadron of Justice. “Take ’em out, or go back to sleepy-land!

Bulletman and Bulletgirl both quickly figured they were in deep trouble when they saw the chaos in front of them. Both immediately leaped into action, and their attack was countered by Black Dionysius and Black Sheba, who quickly used their strength to take the heroes out.

Minute Man, Mister Scarlet, and Pinky the Whiz Kid rushed in to help, and within seconds they were also unconscious, or so the villains thought. Pinky was a sly kid; she feigned unconsciousness, and when they weren’t looking, she maneuvered over to Uncle Dudley, who was relatively unhurt. The two of them snuck out the entrance to regroup.

Bulletman rebounded fast and started punching Black Dionysius, but to no avail. The young villain enjoyed the feeling of someone hitting him without him feeling it. Laughing, he swatted the hero and sent him flying. Bulletgirl groaned, and Black Sheba kicked her in the head.

Darkling looked over the remains of the battle and shrugged. Two powerless ones had escaped; well, they would be no problem. An old man and a girl who had no known powers could hardly equal any of this crew.

“Gather around, troops! Let’s take these fallen ones back to, well, a certain location — one the Confederation of Hell has prepared for this event.”


And on the Rock of Eternity, the old wizard Shazam and the visiting Ibis the Invincible were watching the events unfold in a large crystal ball.

“It does not look good, my friend,” Ibis said. “For the first time in years, I fear for our friends.”

Shazam looked thoughtful. “I have an idea. Hopefully, there is time.”

Ibis the Invincible nodded, knowing that the old wizard could always pull both rabbits out of hats and hats out of rabbits.

Shazam went over to his personal altar and had begun a chant, when he received some unexpected and unwelcome visitors.

“Hello, old friend,” the malefic voice said. Shazam recognized that voice and turned his head toward the one who had spoken.

“By the gods! You!

Boo!” shouted the evil wizard, feeling gleeful. Next to him was Black Adam, looking even haughtier than usual.

Ibis raised his Ibistick, preparing to cast a spell, but was swiftly cold-cocked by Black Adam. “None of that, magician!” the black-clad villain exclaimed.

Shazam had vanished while the evil ones’ attentions were on his old friend.

“By the powers of hell, that Shazam cannot escape me long!” Black Adam looked at his new mentor. “Could he be invisible?” he asked, then felt a tingling and passed out.

The evil wizard picked up his protégé, and with a wave of his hand, they both disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

Regaining visibility, Shazam went to check on Ibis the Invincible.


The Marvel Family was in a very serious situation, and they could think of no way out. As Freddy Freeman contemplated the idea that he and his best friends might die this day, he began thinking about the last time he had seen his own kid brother just a couple of days ago, while Billy Batson was paying a visit to him on campus at Columbia University.


Freddy Freeman had gone postal.

“Christopher Daniel Freeman, I’m gonna kill you!” he shouted into thin air.

Normally, Freddy was a very calm, cool young man. Today, however, he was fuming at some dumb practical joke he thought his younger brother Christopher, or Kit, had played on him. It wasn’t the prank itself that had the young man up in arms, it was the fact that the still-fourteen-year-old Kit Freeman was invisible, so he wouldn’t have to face his older brother’s wrath.

Kit has really done it this time, Freddy thought angrily. He had stored an assignment for his journalism class on a computer disk, and now it was gone. It wasn’t gone as in disappeared, but gone as in deleted. In fact, the whole disk had been formatted, so all of his schoolwork had been irretrievably wiped out. And that writing assignment was due the next day. It was difficult enough to adjust to the demands and rigors of college life as it was, without something like this happening.

“You can’t kill me, you dope! I’m already dead!” yelled back Kit Freeman, AKA Kid Eternity. “And besides, I didn’t do it!” Of course, Freddy couldn’t hear his kid brother, either.

“Freddy, cool it,” said his best friend, Billy Batson, trying to keep his own voice below a shout. “I seriously doubt that Kit had intended to erase your journalism assignment.”

The last time Billy had seen his best friend anywhere near this angry was a few years ago, after informing Freddy that Captain Nazi was alive and holding the city of Chicago hostage. But Freddy had literally snapped then, nearly drowning the villain in a fountain as Captain Marvel Junior until Captain Marvel had talked some sense into him. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Führer of Chicago,” Shazam! #34 (March-April, 1978).]

Who, or rather what, had actually formatted the floppy disk was a being called an imp of the perverse. A creature of chaos not unlike mischievous fairies, these imps committed mischief invisibly, letting some dumb human or another take the rap for their misdeeds — or, in this case, the immortal, teenage agent of eternity.

“Billy, you don’t know Kit like I do,” Freddy shot back. “He always pulled some boneheaded stunt when we were kids.”

“Speaking of boneheaded stunts, what about some of the ones you pulled?” Kid Eternity retorted with his arms crossed, still invisible and inaudible. “Keep? There has to be an imp of the perverse around here somewhere, but who could’ve summoned one up?”

“Kid, I’ve looked everywhere in the house, but I can’t find it,” said the Kid’s guardian, a genial, bald-pated angel called Mr. Keeper. “As for who could’ve called it forth, you and Freddy both have a few enemies with that kind of power, so your guess would be as good as mine.”

“It’s OK, Keep. I think I already know who it was. It’s the one guy who has the shortcut.”

“You mean Master Man?

“‘Fraid so, Keep. And if Master Man is back, can the Confederation of Hell be far behind?” After a brief pause, the Kid shouted, “There it is, and it’s uglier than I thought!”

Indeed, there in the corner stood the ugliest little critter the young spirit had ever seen. Less than eighteen inches tall, wart-covered, and foul-smelling, the nasty thing thumbed his nose at the ethereal duo and laughed, taunting the Kid into trying to catch it.

“Just be careful, Kid,” the guardian angel said. “Those things are slippery customers.”

“Careful’s my middle name, Keep.”

“Funny, I thought your middle name was Daniel.”

Kid Eternity chuckled humorlessly as he leaped at the nasty little chaotic spirit, but the thing sidestepped at the last moment and knocked the hatstand over. The heavy wooden rack simply passed through the Kid, clattering to the floor with a dull thud.

“Ha! Gotcha!” the Kid yelled as he lunged at it again, this time grabbing the creature by its foot. It screamed, but it couldn’t get free of the teen spirit’s grip. As the Kid held the imp and said his magic word, a foul odor filled the room, causing both Billy and Freddy to pinch their noses closed in utter disgust.

“Holy moley!” Billy exclaimed, his eyes starting to water from the stink. “What’s that smell?!

“Ugh! That’s what I’d like to know!” Freddy retorted, then heard the thwam that heralded his little brother’s comings and goings.

“This,” the Kid said calmly, holding the ugly, foul-smelling imp up in front of him.

“What is it?” Billy asked, getting as good a look as the malodorous stench would allow.

“It’s an imp of the perverse, Billy. This is what deleted Freddy’s writing assignment, not me. Oh, it’s not necessary to apologize, Freddy. I know you’re sorry,” the young agent of eternity finished with a grin.


But Freddy hadn’t apologized that morning and had instead decided to ignore his brother and sulk as he retyped his writing assignment from memory. In the present, he winced as he remembered how he had felt later on, when his temper had finally cooled off. That was one good reason that gave him hope he would escape; he needed to make things right with Kit. Another reason was that their foe Master Man might very well be targeting him, and they needed to take him down.

Well, first things first, he thought. If only Kit was around right now to help us get out of this jam.


Elsewhere, Pinky and Uncle Dudley watched their friends being carried away.

“I wish I could do something! Anything!” the teen crime-buster sputtered, feeling totally frustrated with her inability to act.

Uncle Dudley nodded. “There has to be something we can do, but what? I can’t think of another super-hero that could handle this bunch. What with the most powerful of them already taken prisoner, and my Shazambago acting up big… What?” He pointed at a strange shimmering in the air. “Pinky, something odd is going on here.”

A young man appeared before them. “My brother and his friends have powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, but I have connections elsewhere. Shazam called me in. And my underworld connections tell me where we can go.”

“Egads!” exclaimed Uncle Dudley. “Well, shut my mouth and call me Harpo! I totally forgot about Kid Eternity!”

Dudley felt something else, too. His body felt wonderful, like it hadn’t since about 1928 or so. He felt strong and powerful. “What the–? My, uh, Shazambago seems to have worn off! I feel like a new man.”

Kid Eternity looked at Uncle Dudley. “Somehow, you yourself have gained the power of Shazam! How, I don’t know, but come on — let’s go kick some butt.”

“If we can. And we probably can!” Pinky exclaimed, quietly wishing that she, too, could somehow gain some sort of power.


The evil wizard slapped Black Adam to consciousness. “How could you allow yourself to be taken like that, you fool?”

“Me?” Black Adam. “I don’t see the wizard or the magician in your clutches!”

“If you had not been so incompetent, they would be joining their colleagues even now. I warn you, Black Adam! Do not let it happen again!”

The evil wizard did not see Black Adam’s fist clench. But before the Egyptian warrior could say or do anything, the other members of his family and their two new allies entered their cave with several prisoners.

“I brought them all,” said Darkling. “We should be able to have some fun with these fools!”

“Yes, and we shall, as soon as we take care of the three now coming toward this location. Since one is a weakling girl and the other a foolish, powerless old man, that will be simple enough for the young ones. And I shall dispose of Kid Eternity once and for all!” The dark-haired villain known as Master Man, wearing a green cape and clad in a brown uniform emblazoned with a skull and crossbones, began to laugh.

The other evil ones joined in with laughter of their own at the thought of what they could do to their helpless victims, none of them aware that the Mighty Isis had regained consciousness and was even now making plans.

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