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Shazam! Volume 1

DC

Geoff Johns (Writer); Gary Frank (Artist)

Oct 24, 2013 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


He’s been doing it for years and years, but I must confess a little fatigue when it comes to Geoff Johns reinventing something for a modern audience. I’m not a big fan of Batman: Earth One, for instance, and I’ve grown very cool on his New 52 version of Justice League.

However, the Shazam! feature that largely ran in the back pages of that Justice League title surprised me. It’s a fun reimagining of the classic story of orphan Billy Batson, who with “one magic word” becomes “the world’s mightiest mortal.” In the olden days, this hero was called Captain Marvel, though titles he appeared in were called “Shazam” due to trademark stuff, I believe. But now, golden-age goody-goody Billy Batson has been recast as a troubled, rebellious youth. His audacity to call the wizard Shazam on his BS earns the power that in the olden days was granted due to Billy’s pure heart. And the mighty, magic lightning-powered hero is now officially called Shazam as well.

The crucial Shazam elements are present: Black Adam, a curiously buff Dr. Sivana (don’t worry, he begins to wither into his classic form at the end), the subway car, a “Marvel Family” (including Mary and Talky Tawny!), but all woven into a pretty compelling setup that inspired more of a “hey, cool” than a “gee willikers.”

Perhaps I’m annoyed by Billy’s new foster family, which seems gratuitiously PC. No, there is not (NOT! NOT!) enough minority representation in mainstream comics, but, whether true or not, it comes off as a bit of an attempt to check off a lot of diversity boxes. Perhaps an unfair criticism. But the Asian member of the Marvel Family being able to talk to machines because he’s great at science? That’s the most egregious example of some characterization being pretty lazy. Aside from Freddy and Mary, these are new characters are clean slates; delving into sterotypes is not necessary.

The visuals are very fine; not just Gary Frank’s energy-filled renderings and able storytelling, and not just his ability to dramatically sell a scene, and not just his lovely facial acting, but the character designs are well done. “Wizard Shazam” looking like an ancient man from an aboriginal culture makes a hell of a lot more sense than being a Gandalf clone. The costume variations when other people become “Marvels” struck the right note (I love the sneaker-style shoes on the speediest Marvel).

In any case, this is a surprisingly fun volume that scratches the need for visceral superhero fare nicely. I’m not sure it needs to be a monthly series, but getting a nice chunk of Shazam! of this quality yearly would be marvelous. Shockingly, pun intended. (www.dccomics.com/characters/shazam)

Author rating: 7/10

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