CONVERGENCE: SHAZAM #1
Anyone who knows me, or who has spent any time at all interacting with me on the interwebs, knows I love Captain Marvel. No, not Marvel Comics’ alien soldier. Nope, not even Marvel’s African American Avenger. Although, she had one of the best costumes in all of funny book land. And she had some of the coolest powers, too.
No, I’m talking about DC Comics’ Billy Batson. You know, the orphan who always wears that same red shirt all the time? Yeah, him. And talk about cool powers: whenever he says SHAZAM (the name of the ancient wizard who gave him his powers. How cool is that?!) he changes into the adult version of himself, with all of the powers of the ancient gods. Basically, he’s a magical Superman, only without the heat vision. Originally published by Fawcett Comics in WHIZ COMICS (yup) #1 in 1939, Captain Marvel was one of the biggest selling books of the Golden Age of Comics. But, as time went by, Cap had spotty success with readers. Always portrayed as a “golly gee wow” type, his storytelling didn’t easily mesh with the rest of the super hero universe, and he has been published sporadically since.
Captain Marvel did have a successful run in the ‘90’s with Jerry Ordway and Peter Krause at the helm. This is where I first discovered the magic. Ordway managed to seamlessly merge, and explain, the Captain’s innocent vibe in a way that made total sense. But when the series ended, every other attempt at modernizing the character ended in failure.
Which brings us to the SHAZAM issue of DC’s summer event Convergence. The event itself isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but when I heard that Shazam was getting a mini-series, I was all about it. I’m always game for someone to give Billy Batson a try. But, Jeff Parker writing the adventure, and self-proclaimed Shazam super-fan Evan “Doc” Shaner on pencils?
Oh yes. This was something I was REALLY looking forward to.
With Convergence, an alien force has gathered cities from around space-time (or from all across DC’s past stories) to do “do battle” for supremacy. This setup gives fans a chance to revisit their favorite characters from DC’s very long publishing history. Or more specifically, to give me a perfect Captain Marvel story by Parker and Shaner.
Parker starts us off with a powerless Billy Batson broadcasting an emergency press conference in Fawcett City. Because Fawcett is one of many cities held captive, Billy is unable to access the magic that changes him into Captain Marvel. Using Batson’s day job as a radio broadcaster, Parker is able to bring the reader up to date on the vast history of the Captain without boring the socks off them. No easy feat. Captain Marvel has so many whimsical elements to him and his cast of characters, that in other hands they could easily fall flat. Other writers have tried to ignore those elements, but then you really just have a second-rate Superman in a lightning bolt costume. But with those elements done right? You have a first-rate Captain Marvel, and that is something special.
We here at Crimespree have been following Doc Shaner’s career for a while now. From BUDDY COPS to his breakout hit FLASH GORDON, Shaner has been a star on the rise. His deceptively simple line work, which always has excelled at showing detail and facial emotion absolutely fits the Golden Age vibe that Shazam projects. Also, Shaner’s version of Tawky Tawny is now the signature version of the suit wearing talking tiger. I already told you: there are whimsical elements to this book. Get over it. Now, let’s hope we get to see the evil alien worm Mr. Mind next issue. Nothing like a tiny worm with a radio slung over his neck attempting to take over the world to remind a guy why he loves comic books.
In closing, let me just say this: Convergence has given us the SHAZAM dream team of Parker and Shaner. Instead of modernizing or ignoring the aspects of a difficult character, they’ve embraced those aspects with open arms and given us fans a damn… sorry, Cap… a darn near perfect funny book.