While the legacy of Shazam is in shambles and the hero we’ve all come to know and love as Captain Marvel are missing in the DC Universe proper nowadays, we’ve been lucky enough to get a monthly dose of Marvel magic in the form of “Billy Batson.” Flying under the Johnny DC and DC Kids banners, this title has been criminally overlooked, but hasn’t failed to deliver excellent stories despite.
Carrying on from where Mike Kunkel left the story of the Marvel Family, Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani have made this book their own, but have done so with an extremely reverent consideration for the history of the characters and creators. Their reverence doesn’t temper the way they approach writing, and this title, like the duo’s other book — “Tiny Titans” — is unapologetic comic book fun at the very best. Captain Marvel, being a literal kid at heart, should have a comic that is light-hearted, honest, and fun. That’s not to say that his opponents aren’t going to be devious, conniving, or flat-out evil. Baltazar and Aureliani have made this book fun, but they’ve also shown the consequences to being a hero.
The duo doesn’t stop with the ups and downs of being Captain Marvel. They push Marvel’s powers in ways that I don’t recall seeing done, and they do so with a wink and nod in most spots. At one point, Marvel receives a boost from the wizard, and appears to be pointed down a path parallel to the one Billy took in the “Trials of SHAZAM!” comic. Aureliani and Baltazar prevent history from repeating itself there, but it further illustrates their love for the character and his history.
Mike Norton is easily one of the most impressive and expressive comic book talents today. Baltazar and Aureliani are lucky to have Norton on board. Norton’s work here is much more cartoon-influenced. The characters make the Justice League Unlimited style of character look mainstream, as Captain Marvel and Black Adam boast torsos that would make them more impossibly wobbly. Marvel’s eyes are somewhere between recognizable, feasible human eyes and the squinty slits that C.C. Beck used to draw. The detail in the stories is thick and the action is explosive. This is a beautiful book, and given some of Norton’s past achievements, I can’t help but wonder what a DC Universe-based SHAZAM! would look like with Mike Norton on the art.
Atkinson’s colors really help this book deliver. The upgrade in paper (and price) a few months back struck me as a curious call, but the paper really helps show off just how electrifyingly bold, bright, and sassy Atkinson’s coloring is. This book looks exactly how an all ages comic book should look. Unfortunately, it’s the last issue of the series.
This issue has everything a Captain Marvel – or Marvel Family – fan could want: a battle against Black Adam (many of the other foes were defeated last issue), an appearance by the Justice League, Billy marveling at his powers and the worlds they open up, and some good old-fashioned Marvel Family happy chitchat to end the issue. It’s a darn shame that with a title so utterly enjoyable we’re going to be SHAZAM!-less for a while. Whatever DC’s plans are for the Marvel Family, they’d be wise to somehow involve this creative team.