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Johnny Bullet
DC Comics
Billy Batson and the Magic of SHAZAM # 1
By Koppy McFad

Jul 4, 2008 - 2:20

Publisher(s): DC Comics
Writer(s): Mike Kunkel
Penciller(s): Mike Kunkel
Cover Artist(s): Mike Kunkel
$2.25, 32 pages


shazam.jpg

This series takes off from the recent "Monster Society of Evil" miniseries of Jeff Smith, a story that introduced a more light-hearted Captain Marvel, different from the versions seen in both the original 1940s comics and in DC Comics' revival of the character.

Respected animator Mike Kunkel takes the title of his new comic to heart as the story is just as much about Captain Marvel's alter-ego, 11-year-old Billy Batson, as it is about the superhero who has the powers of Solomon, Hercules, Achilles, Zeus, Atlas and Mercury-- hence the magic word/acronym, "Shazam!" In this first issue, Captain Marvel and his kid sister, Mary Marvel deal with more mundane threats like an out-of-control circus train, rather than any supervillain or monster. But unknown to them, the new threat called Black Adam is secretly plotting against them and will make his presence felt in future issues.

This book is full of heartfelt comedy and cheerful entertainment-- much of it having little to do with Captain Marvel's role as a superhero. This is Billy Batson's book and even when he is in adult form, Captain Marvel's youthful attitude is evident. He argues with his sister on how to stop a runaway train, poses as an adult to straighten things out with his principal and generally tries to maintain a dual lifestyle as both an ordinary kid and an extraordinary hero. Mary is also rather endearing, rather than the smart-aleck brat that has become so popular in today's cartoons.

Despite its many good qualities, this book is still rather rough around the edges. This being the first issue, one would think it would start off with a lot of action to pull new readers in-- and then introduce the comedy and introspection later. The art is pleasingly cartoonish without making the characters look stupid or silly. But it seems rather unfinished, like Kunkel lost his eraser mid-way and decided to just leave in all the sketchy lines he made in the rough draft. Even the cover is rather crude. It looks like a bunch of guys all standing in a group together, even though it is suppose to be an illustration of how Billy turns into Captain Marvel. (Isn't the transformation suppose to be instantaneous?) DC Comics is also apparently using a lower quality of paper for this book, which certainly gives it a different "look" and "feel." Of course, this probably allows DC Comics to sell the book at lower cost than most of its titles, so more kids will buy it.  Hopefully, this book will get a strong following of its own. It certainly deserves it.



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