While the cover spoils the ending — honestly, if you’ve achieved a high school diploma or higher and you’re reading a DC Kids book for surprises, you’re my hero! — the cover most certainly doesn’t ruin the entertaining read inside. Mike Norton climbs on board with this issue, and his art here is completely different from any Mike Norton work you’ve seen previously.
Norton doesn’t abandon his style for a “house style,” but rather he adapts his style to the series here. Norton pays a little bit of tribute to Jeff Smith and Mike Kunkel in his drawing, but he also brings in a healthy dose of Mike Wieringo influence to make it all perfectly and uniquely Mike Norton. This is a bit of a departure from what Norton’s done on “Green Arrow/Black Canary,” “Blue Beetle,” or even “Gravity,” but it works here. It’s energetic, and it comes through quite clearly that Norton is having a good time in Fawcett City with the Batsons and friends.
The coloring by Zac Atkinson is lush and inviting, playing quite heavily with textures for effect, like a kid’s storybook gone tremendously right. Combined with Norton’s art, this book has a look and feel that transcends younger reader.
The story in this issue is pretty straight forward, with Billy and Mary at the Fawcett City Museum of Natural History. It’s the one day a year that all of the schools have their field trip to take part in the museum’s open house (what a logistical nightmare that would be!) except Captain Marvel is also going to make an appearance. Things happen as they can in fictional universes, and Batsons wind up running into the old “pal” Theo Adam.
Baltazar and Franco do a good job of making this issue instantly approachable while keeping the level of the story high and the details tight. They’re not writing this down to kids, they’re writing a comic that kids can enjoy. The creative team here seems to understand what needs to happen in a SHAZAM! book for it to be enjoyable. This is the core of Captain Marvel’s universe being written with enthusiasm and heart.
Funny thing is, parents (or adults in general) needing a fix of the Big Red Cheese can certainly enjoy this book too. I know I sure did, and I look forward to next month’s fisticuffs at the Field Museum.