TITLE: Shazam! Vol. 1
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns
PENCILLER: Gary Frank
COLLECTS: Justice League #0, 21, Back up stories from Justice League #7-11 14-16, 18-20
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
RELEASED: September 25, 2013
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Remember in The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and her group finally arrived at the Emerald City, and the various workers and beauticians essentially gave them all makeovers to prepare them for their visit with the Wizard? At various points in his career, Geoff Johns has been called upon to be the Emerald City of DC Comics. Over the years, characters like the Flash, Green Lantern, the Teen Titans, Aquaman, and even Superman have been summoned under Johns’ pen to be freshened up and sent back to readers.
Johns’ newest character project is Shazam, a.k.a. the superhero formerly known as Captain Marvel. And this time, he and frequent collaborator Gary Frank have a whole new continuity to work with, and very few restrictions on what they can and can’t do. That freedom is very apparent in what we see from our new Billy Batson.
The Billy we meet in Shazam is a razor-tongued, cynical 15-year-old who has been bounced between foster homes most of his life. Billy’s new home is with a young couple who have five other adopted children (among whom are the New 52 incarnations of Freddy Freeman/Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel). Their disposition is generally pretty rosey, but the bad tempered Billy isn’t buying it. Soon, Billy has other issues to deal with. A mystical subway ride brings him face-to-face with an old, dying wizard. Desperate to find someone to take on his power, the wizard senses good in Billy, and grants him the power to become Shazam, a fully grown adult superhero, and guardian of the world of magic.
Meanwhile, desperate to save his family, a scientist named Dr. Sivana releases the evil Black Adam after centuries of imprisonment. Now Shazam and Black Adam are on a collision course. But of course, our young friend is in way over his head.
I’ll rarely complain about Gary Frank’s art. Even when he’s drawing a story I hate, his art is still a joy to look at. His faces are always very lifelike, distinct, and expressive. He’s the perfect artist to draw young Billy’s youthful, exuberant expressions on the adult face of Shazam. And unlike a lot of artists, his superheroes don’t always look like jacked up bodybuilders. Granted, Shazam’s body is pretty muscled, but I think we can chalk that up to Frank creating a greater contrast between Billy and his magical counterpart. All in all, Shazam is gorgeous from an artistic standpoint.
The incorporation of Billy’s foster siblings, Mary, Freddy, Pedro, Eugene and Darla is a carryover from Flashpoint. I’m a huge fan. In one fell swoop, our hero now has a fully functioning supporting cast. Some are more developed than others, namely Freddy. But at the very least, we’ve got a good snapshot of each. And the way they all factor into Billy’s new powers (I’m not spoiling it!) opens some pretty interesting doors. There’s a lot of intrigue and potential wrapped up in Billy’s new foster family.
In releasing Black Adam, Dr. Sivana gets a glowing lightning bolt star across the right side of his face (Harry Potter much?). This allows him to “see” magic. No complaints here, and later it does pave the way for the rodent-like appearance we’re used to seeing from the character. But what does irk me is that Sivana is trying to harness the power of magic to “save his family.” But we never actually see any family, and he doesn’t mention specifics of any kind. I can only assume this is an idea Johns and Frank didn’t have time to dive further into, and intend to revisit later. C’mon guys! Don’t leave us hangin’!
DC has tried numerous times over the years to jump-start Captain Marvel/Shazam, and perhaps make him a marquee player in the shared universe. Shazam is a perfectly suitable, and wonderfully drawn beginning to a new continuity for the character. But as is the case with many new beginnings, what really matters is how they’re followed up on. Shazam was front and center in Trinity War, which was a good start. But of course, what we’re really waiting for is a Shazam ongoing series, which will hopefully reunite Johns and Frank. We’re ready when you guys are…
Image 1 from multiversitycomics.com. Image 2 from everydayislikewednesday.blogspot.com.
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