“What are you waiting for? Let’s go!”
Shazam! is an fascinating beast. Originating within the Golden Age of comics as Captain Marvel, the character’s had a difficult historical past up till this level. As soon as the supreme champion of comicdom, surpassing Superman himself, the character’s seen a discount in reputation through the years. It’s fascinating to take a look at that historical past, when you contemplate how a lot of an enormous deal the character as soon as was. Most of the common mechanics, a few of which might go onto outline a whole lot of the silver age, emerged first in Captain Marvel comics. Otto Binder and C.C Beck actually laid the foundations and created one thing recent and few might have ever guessed the influential energy of the work. Whether or not it’s superhero households, supervillain groups, tremendous pets, odds are, should you can identify it, Captain Marvel did it first. Superman’s science-fiction met its match in Captain Marvel’s wondrous fantasy and magical risk. Billy Batson was no typical superhero, he resided within the wild realm of suited up and clever speaking tigers and evil space-worms. Which is why when Fawcett closed, DC made positive to rent Otto Binder to work on Superman. And he definitely introduced that very same sense of marvel and risk to the Superman franchise, unveiling iconic aspect of mythology after one other.
So the prospect of a correct revamp in 2018 and a daily ongoing title for the character is absolutely intriguing, particularly with an enormous movie adaptation on the best way. How do you recenter this as soon as nice icon and assist him reclaim his standing on the prime of the hero pantheon? It’s a problem many have taken on earlier than and it’s a robust nut to crack. Geoff Johns, who’s just about setup a lot of the mechanics for an excellent variety of trendy DC flagships, is probably a becoming option to take up the baton as soon as held by the likes of Otto Binder. Whether or not it’s Inexperienced Lantern, Aquaman, Flash, JSA or Superman, Johns has all the time laid down agency groundwork and established clear story engines, proving himself to be adept at efficiently revitalizing properties. He has additionally achieved in depth work on pivotal antagonists of the Shazam! franchise through the years, most notably in 52, the place he dealt with the households of each Black Adam and Physician Sivana and utilized Mr. Thoughts. He additionally rebooted Billy Batson and all the franchise alongside Gary Frank and Brad Anderson with the Curse of Shazam backups throughout The New 52. This relaunch comes on the heels all of that and guarantees to be a rebirth, in spirit, of the franchise with a purpose to construct a definitive rendition of the character.
Alongside artist Dale Eaglesham, his companion from JSA, colorist Michael Atiyeh and letterer Rob Leigh, Johns is actually constructing a enjoyable, accessible and all-ages story anybody can decide up. The first few pictures are that of practice tracks and a practice arriving, as they typically are in Billy’s story. We open on the Rock of Eternity, as an omniscient narrator chronicles its historical past. From the seven champions it as soon as housed to the seven sins that it as soon as imprisoned, we’re advised of its cosmic significance and its want of a brand new champion. The artistic workforce shortly recounts his new origin right here in a lush unfold filled with element and teases for what’s to return. We see seven thrones within the Rock of Eternity, every with its personal distinctive insignia, as magical lightning zaps about. Just one is occupied, with the Wizard sitting solemnly, commenting on Billy. The jaded cynic Billy of the early New 52 is framed as a relic of the previous right here, with the staff emphasizing his worthiness and love of household. In the event you’ve by no means learn a Billy Batson story earlier than, this might simply be your first. Should you’re a returning reader, it’s a pleasant retelling that catches you on top of things. However past that, it’s additionally an efficient assertion of function, because the artistic group units up the core thesis assertion of the run forward. “For family is the true power of Shazam…and it’s true weakness.” These are the phrases the narrator ominously concludes on and it’s obvious that they’re what the workforce means to discover.
Dale Eaglesham’s paintings, together with Mike Atiyeh’s color-work, all through the difficulty is stellar and excels particularly on this opening sequence. Whether or not it’s rusty previous practice tracks, Kirby-ian know-how or fantastical previous castles, made predominantly of stone and wooden, Eaglesham makes all of them work and makes them match seamlessly into one lush setting. And the delicate allusions to offer texture to the environment, from cracks within the stone to the best way the materials of fabric are rendered, they’re all executed with cautious thought and assist the storytelling. Rob Leigh opts for a really fantastical title font to actually set up the story and its intent: this isn’t only a common superhero story.
We then minimize to a museum in Philadelphia the place Billy and his foster brother, Freddie Freeman are on a faculty journey. Their faculty bus is etched with the phrases Fawcett Excessive Faculty, a pleasant nod. As Freddie groans about boredom, crooks sporting masks with DC hero likenesses present up. It’s an enthralling little bit and one very a lot akin to the theft scene in Spider-Man: Homecoming. The crooks make calls for, just for Billy to say the magic phrase: Shazam! Rising in his hero persona, Billy begins to make fast work of the crooks. The final remaining crooks maintain hostages, which proves futile, since Freddie’s reworked and introduced within the backup of the whole Shazam household. Mary Bromfield, Pedro Peña, Eugene Choi and eventually Darla Dudley. Taking down the criminals is nearly youngster’s play for the household of heroes they usually make it evident, with Freddie and Pedro enjoying baseball with one criminal as Darla ties up one other with a fireplace hose. It’s an awesome, enjoyable little introduction to the forged of the e-book and a cool showcase of their talents. Later, we see the police taking the criminals into custody and we’re handled to a scene the place the household debates who’s in-charge, with Mary noting they want code-names. All through the complete sequence, there’s a youthful exuberance and pleasure that accompanies each second, with the youngsters loving each second of their wondrous powers. They usually’re very a lot youngsters.From there we transfer to their residence, with the Vasquezs’, the place they’re referred to as right down to dinner. All of them come charging down, with recent lasagna ready for them. Freddie remarks that with nice energy comes shared duty, a enjoyable play on the well-known Spider-Man adage. Billy suggests to Freddie that maybe he ought to referred to as himself ‘Captain Marvel’ earlier than being minimize off. There’s a tongue-in-cheek sensibility to the ebook that’s very evident and you may inform the artistic workforce’s having loads of enjoyable. The complete household then sits right down to dig into their dinner, briefly discussing the occasions on the Museum. The Vasquezs, in basic custom, stay unaware of their youngsters’ super-heroics and the youngsters converse with nice ardour regarding the superhero workforce that saved the day.
One factor that’s extremely particular, in each the above sequences on the Museum and the Vasquez house, is simply how a lot character and character the artistic is ready to squeeze into the room they’re given. Eaglesham’s artwork is particularly very important to this, as he brings a kinetic energy to the title, together with his characters being extremely expressive. Eaglesham can also be a grasp of physique language and his characters carry out in ways in which convey rather a lot about them. Each little mannerism provides as much as inform and convey out their personalities, with some being hilariously exaggerated even. Nevertheless it all works, the exaggerated impact fits the tone and sensibility of each the characters and the story being advised. So from Pedro’s ridiculous batting stance, Mary’s pursed lips as she ponders superhero names, Rosa Vasquez’s affected person however commanding posture, all of it works. In each panel and web page, Eaglesham is ready to convey the core of the characters and what they’re feeling effortlessly. The visible storytelling is impeccable and it’s an enormous a part of why the guide works the best way it does. Freddie’s smug grins, Darla’s feverish pleasure, Mary’s behavior of twirling her hair and Pedro’s tic of prepping water as he’s taking the subsequent chew of meals, all of them floor the characters and convey humanity to them, permitting us to interact with the wild and adventurous tone of the e-book and story. Each panel has so much happening, with Eaglesham packing each little bit of character that he probably can into it. Atiyeh’s colour palette clicks completely right here, accentuating all of the strengths of Eaglesham’s pencils.
Following the dinner, we skip to the youngsters on the Rock of Eternity, the place Billy professes his love for the household and the way a lot they matter to him. Household is definitely the core thematic of the run right here and it’s the elemental concept on which every little thing is constructed. Eugene then pops in from a nook and informs them of a discovery he’s made. They chase after him and discover a place that wasn’t there within the Rock till comparatively lately–a practice station. The Station, as Eugene calls it, is crammed with many pathways, every with its personal practice and tracks, with a unique image etched on prime of the pathways. The symbols are the exact same ones on the throne. The youngsters then come throughout a big map, which reads “The Magic Lands!” and showcases a fantastical realm, one marked by these mysterious symbols and the basic Shazam! image.
Shifting again to the Vasquez residence for a second, we’re given pages that reduce between the Rock and the house. There’s a knock on the primary door and the 2 mother and father go to reply it. And on the similar time, the youngsters uncover a big lever set to “Off” and Freddie, intending to show the place on, pulls it to “On”. Lightning erupts and we minimize to the door opening, main us to the ultimate web page of the primary story. We’re proven a person with a hanging resemblance to Billy in his grownup type, the identical man we noticed in Billy’s photograph of his mother and father. He explains that he’s Billy’s father and has come to see him. And thus the primary story ends.
It’s a strong hook and Johns is laying out enjoyable mythology for readers and future writers to discover, very similar to he did on franchises like Inexperienced Lantern and Aquaman. In plenty of methods, Shazam #1 is probably probably the most Geoff Johns comedian in a very long time. It’s full of so many parts and trappings Johns traditionally has utilized or been an enormous fan of. From the six mysterious and unknown equivalents to the one we do know, including as much as a complete of seven to the story deeply rooted in household, these are all issues followers of Johns are intimately accustomed to and have come to anticipate. There’s the trademark sense of appeal and marvel that Billy’s comics are recognized for and whereas it isn’t fairly the identical as Grant Morrison’s masterful The Multiversity: Thunderworld, it nonetheless has that to it. The guide additionally carries the DNA of loads of nice all ages fantasy journey novels and tales. From The Phantom Tollbooth, Narnia, Wizard of Oz, Alice of Wonderland to the works of Roald Dahl, the artistic workforce undoubtedly manages to channel the spirit of tales in that style. Nevertheless, meant or not, there’s additionally a fantastic manga sensibility to the work right here. Johns is not any unusual to such a sensibility, with loads of his work carrying it, however that is maybe probably the most overt one to take action. The work right here could be very harking back to basic Fujiko Fujio works, particularly the 60’s Perman tales they produced. This sense is additional aided and cemented by the stunning backup story by the Japanese artist, Sen.
The backup is a touching and candy story displaying us the origin of Mary and the way she got here to be the place she is. We’re additionally launched to Hoppy, a bunny Freddie and Mary rescue from a retailer planning on promoting him to Dr. Sivana. The rescue actually finally ends up being the second two bond for the primary time and grow to be true household. Drawn and coloured by the phenomenally gifted artist Sen, an enormous fan of the franchise and character, it brings a becoming manga aesthetic to the e-book. It’s rather more cartoon-y and aiming to be inventive extra so than ‘real’. It carries the story extremely nicely, being so suited to it, right down to the very tonality. The final moments of the backup join with the start of the primary story, as we see Mary and Darla get a name from Freddie and rework, earlier than heading off to the museum. However earlier than it ends, we see Hoppy get struck by a spark of magic lightning. His eyes glow with energy as Kirby krackle and lightning encompass him. His fur has now shifted to turn into a lightning sample on each side. He’s Shazam bunny now. That is very clearly an replace on Hoppy the Marvel Bunny for the modern period.
In any case, Shazam is a pleasant romp and a firmly basis on which to construct on. The artistic workforce has set us up for a terrific adventurous voyage via the seven magic lands and the journey begins right here. That is the place you get on the practice, as a result of the enjoyable is just simply beginning. Evil worms, mad scientists, magic tigers and bunnies and even Santa, there’s rather a lot on this journey, so get your ticket and hop on-board.
Is it good?
Johns, Eaglesham and Sen have created a wonderful and magical expertise that lives as much as the joyous potential of Billy Batson and his household.
An accessible all-ages story with a stunning tone, good humorousness and a whole lot of coronary heart
Johns’ remedy of mythology and character
Eaglesham’s unimaginable work that brings the characters to life
Sen’s pretty and atmospheric paintings with fits the story and tone completely
Atiyeh’s colour palette which persistently accentuates and strengths Eaglesham’s imaginative and prescient
Rob Leigh’s enjoyable lettering decisions which ship the good strains and make the humor of the ebook land