SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for Shazam #1 by Geoff Johns, Dale Eaglesham, Mike Atiyeh, May “SEN” Naito and Rob Leigh, on sale now.
One of the most important thing about the Shazam Family, formerly the Marvel Family, is that stories about the group don’t take themselves too seriously. Things can get a bit weirder, or at least a bit more cartoonish, than your regular superhero franchises. Due to the child’s wish-fulfilment angle that makes the character such an enduring icon, concepts that maybe would have been modernized or outright eliminated as comics march towards a more realistic take on superheroes only serve to make Shazam stories stand out among the crowd.
This was a bit of a problem when Geoff Johns first took a stab at Shazam with his Justice League back-ups drawn by Gary Frank. The team, now working together on Doomsday Clock, tried too hard to modernize Shazam and make the concepts fit with in with the tone and aesthetic of The New 52. They played with some of the more cartoonish aspects of the Shazam Family, but in doing so they missed the point. For example, Tawky Tawny was no longer a well spoken tiger-man in a plaid suit, and instead was more akin to Battlecat from the Masters of the Universe.
Thankfully, Johns’ second go-around with Shazam in the new ongoing seems to embrace what makes the characters and their stories so unique, and as a way of proving that, Shazam #1’s back-up story introduces one of the weirder and more cartoony members of the Shazam Family.
The back-up to Shazam #1, which features art by Mayo “SEN” Naito (who came to DC’s attention via Shazam fan-art and whose work you might recognize from the DC Ink and DC Zoom announcement image) is a story about who Mary Bromfield was before she came to live with the Vasquez family and met her foster brothers and sisters. Like many children in foster care, Mary came from an abusive home and chose to run away and live on the streets rather than spend another day with her aggressive and demanding parents. This is a major departure from Mary’s pre-Flashpoint origin, in which she was kidnapped as a child by Theo Adam and illegally adopted by the wealthy Bromfield family.
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In this new continuity, Mary was found sleeping rough and taken in by the Vasquez Family as their second foster child, arriving a few weeks after Freddy Freeman. Both kids took some time to bond together, but when Freddy helped Mary rescue a bunny from a pet shop that was destined to end up as one of Doctor Sivana’s test subjects, they bonded and learned to make their new house into home. A flash forward to the present shows Mary telling this story to Darla, the youngest of the Shazam Family, before they get a call from Billy and Freddy to meet them at the museum, syncing this story up with the main story of the issue. However, when Mary and Darla say the magic word, a small portion of their lightning hits the rabbit and imbues it with magical energy — it even gets little lightning bolts in its fur — and flies out the window after them.