I’ll admit that I went in to this book not really expecting too much. As a comic-reading-youth, I was never very big on Shazam/Captain Marvel. I’m not sure why that is (or was), but it did have me hesitate going in to this. What drew me to this book was author Geoff Johns, who has a pretty good track record with recent comic books. A record that should continue well with this book.
Either I’ve really been missing out on a pretty incredible story/character, or Johns has rebooted this series in a way that appeals to former comic readers such as myself. I’m guessing the latter.
Geoff Johns starts us right off with a mystery (much like the teaser of a television show) and then introduces us to the troubled lad, Billy Batson. If I have any qualms with this story, it’s that Billy is a little too bad. He’s set up to be about as anti-social and gruff as possible. This is an issue later, when the last of the Council of Wizards is looking to give power to someone who is ‘pure good’ — we know Billy is not that person. But, because it’s an emergency, and Billy has the ‘potential’ for good, he gets shazam’d.
But even though the character flaw doesn’t fit the package perfectly, Johns does a nice job of keeping the characters and the story relate-able to the reader. We can identify with Billy, with his family, with just about everyone in the story. And because we can identify, we can enjoy.
I liked the history of the characters (I can’t help wonder how much is new and how much is as it was when the character first appeared) and the spirit guides that help Billy/Captain Marvel along the way. I liked how his family joined to help, despite his rudeness toward them. But all in all…I actually kinda linked how you just felt good after reading the book. So many graphic novels dwell on the darker aspects that it’s easy to get lost in their moroseness. Shazam, as it should, fills the reader with hope, despite the constant threats.
And the stakes are high and the obstacles about as tough as any one can face. Need you ask for more?
The artwork by Gary Frank is really wonderful. Having looked at so many graphic novels recently with quite questionable art, I was beginning to grow concerned that there are no talented artists working in the medium any more. Not so. Gary Frank’s work is perfect here. (Note: the cover makes our hero appear much more villainous than necessary. )
Looking for a good book? This graphic novel is a delicious start to a new version of an old superhero adventure.
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Shazam! Volume 1
author: Geoff Johns
artist: Gary Frank
publisher: DC Comics
hardcover, 192 pages