SHAZAM Volume one

DC comics
Author: Geoff Johns
Illustrator: Gary Frank

I was never a fan of Shazam during the pre-New 52. Back when he was Captain Marvel. In fact, I was more interested in Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel. The character just never hit me. If your interest was never peaked before then “Shazam” is a book that needs a spot on your shelf.

Taking quite a few liberties with the old origin, the new Shazam has a much darker and direr birth. Thankfully, the one thing it doesn’t lose is its fun feel. Billy Batson is an orphan with a chip on his shoulder. After getting placed in a truly wonderful home he quickly alienates himself from his new sisters and brothers. Sisters and brothers that eagle-eyed readers will remember from the “Flashpoint” reality. They are a wonderful and diverse family that Billy doesn’t want anything to do with. At the same time a very old man in a very secret place is looking for his champion. He’s been looking for a long time and that time has finally run out, right after meeting young Billy Batson. Now imbued with amazing abilities will the selfish young man do what’s right as new threats arise or will he run as he’s been doing his whole life? (Hint: His name is the title of the book, so what do you think?)

When Geoff Johns works with Gary Frank the angels sing, the unicorns dance and all is right in the world. The two collaborate on some of the most exciting super-hero comics in recent memory. Johns truly loves this character and is thankful that he’s the one that gets to bring the character into modern day. He so perfectly captures distinct voices of characters that each one becomes important to you. Every one has their own feelings and motivations. Especially the kids. They are the surprise highlight of the story. Batson’s new siblings play a large role and while they are only shown together their character shows.

On the surface Black Adam can come across a bit one dimensional but Johns writes him with a hint of surprise. There’s a reason for his anger. It plays out nicely over the entirety of the book. And that book looks beautiful thanks to Frank. His art is, as always, just mesmerizing. He creates such striking images it adds even more dimensions to this tale. Shining a big spotlight on his redesign of Shazam and Black Adam; they look better than they’ve ever looked. The images are kinetic. They pulse with electricity flowing through of them. It looks like they’re moving. Gorgeous images. That’s what Frank gives us. Always.

If there was on complaint it would be that Billy Batson is kind of a dick. And it makes sense. Bounced from foster home to foster home anyone’s bound to grow a thick skin. But with how dark a work the New 52 is, I was hoping for a bit of a lighter attitude with Billy. That said, he grows as a character through the story. And will continue to as his story goes on. And it will go on. The stage has been set for many stories for the future and hopefully that will come soon.

Jo Schmidt