Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Say the Magic Word (No, I Don't Mean 'Please')...

Published:  October 1st, 2013
Shazam! (Vol. 1)
Geoff Johns & Gary Frank (Illustrator)
DC Comics
ISBN-13:  9781401242442

Young orphan Billy Batson has bounced from foster home to foster home, but he's far from the ideal child.  Brash and rude, Billy is a troubled teen that just can't seem to find a calling.  But after a fateful night on a subway car, that all will change.

Brought to the feet of the magical wizard Shazam at the Rock of Eternity, Billy is imbued with powers beyond any mortal man.  By shouting the wizard's name --Shazam!-- the young teen is mystically transformed into the powerhouse known as Captain Marvel!  Now given the abilities that make him Earth's Mightiest Mortal at the utterance of a simple phrase, will Billy make the right choices and do what it takes to become a hero?  Or will he succumb to the poor choices of youth -- and the villainous Black Adam?!


       So, Captain Marvel (also known by the word that turns him into a hero, 'Shazam!') is yet another hero that I was ignorant of before I got into comic books very recently.  Funny story, I was totally gonna buy Harley Quinn Vol. 1 and then my brother pointed this one out to me.  I figured if he was interested in reading it, then it made more sense to buy something that'd get more mileage.  So I did, even without really knowing too much about the hero or his adventures in the past.  That's alright though, because on this outing DC actually DID reboot the character!  It's not just a pick 'n choose of storylines to keep or scrap, from what I can tell his origin is actually reworked.  And from what I've learned about his past as the ultimate goody-two-shoes, that may be a really good thing (one Superman is more than enough).
       Teenager Billy Batson has been bounced around the foster-care system for years, ever since his parents died and left him an orphan.  It's made his untrusting, harsh and a manipulative asshole - at least on the surface.  When we meet Billy, he's interviewing a new potential foster placement that just might be his last chance.  Within his first two days at his new home, Billy manages to piss off the school bully, hurt the feelings of all the other kids in his foster family and just be complete jerk.  He does it all to push them away, because Billy doesn't need anyone (so he thinks).  Then Billy is dragged magically to the Rock of Eternity by a wizard named Shazam.  The old man's health is failing and he's looking for a successor, someone completely pure to take the power.  Billy is all that's left and so he empowers the punk kid with his magic.  On the other side of the world, a Dr, Sivana has managed to wake an ancient evil, that will stop at nothing to set in place a new world order.  An evil by the name of 'Black Adam.'  Can Billy harness his new powers to stop a psychotic evil wizard, or will he be too busy trying to buy beer?
       This was a mostly strong, enjoyable beginning from Geoff Johns (whose stuff I actually seem to like the majority of so far), to a character a lot of modern audiences may be unfamiliar with, such as I was initially.  Billy was a hormonal, angry teenage douchebag.  And I absolutely loved it!  Give me a hero with a reason to be a dick, and I can get behind him like no tomorrow!  We also do get to see some more reflective moments such as with the tiger at the zoo (while he's remembering his parents) and while Shazam is looking for the good in Billy.  Also, while a jerk himself, he hates bullies and the main conflict in that kind of derives from that hate.  Black Adam himself had a pretty dark backstory - in the best way.  I especially enjoyed the fate for him at the end of this comic.  Probably the negatives for me were all the cliches.  Poor little orphan, no parents or anyone to care for him.  The "super family" trope with the other foster kids.  The Seven Deadly Sins and their "rampage" through the city.  Overall though, I enjoyed the art and am interested to see what else Johns does with this particular character.  My favorite parts where when Billy got the cash from the ATM and speculated on how to buy beer.  That is such a teenaged boy thing to do, when gaining super magical powers!  I think my favorite thing if there are more installments, will be the moral dilemmas of being a teenager and wanting things your own way, while still trying to do the "right thing."  I recommend this as a fun read, especially for those new to the DCU like I am.

P.S.  Check out the animated film "Justice League: War."  It is based on the Justice League Vol. 1: Origin, the new 52 take on things.  Only instead of having Aquaman involved, Shazam (aka Captain Marvel) is substituted as the seventh member of the Justice League.  His interactions with the others are so entertaining and his hero-worship of Cyborg/Victor Stone is truly touching.

VERDICT:  3.5/5 Stars

*No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.*

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