Review – Shazam! #1: Lightning Strikes Again

Comic Books DC This Week
Shazam! #1 variant cover, via DC Comics.

Shazam! #1 – Geoff Johns, Writer; Dale Eaglesham, Mayo “Sen” Naito, Artists; Michael Atiyeh, Colorist


Ray – 9.5/10

Corrina: That Back-Up Story! Be Still My Heart

Ray: Gosh, Ray! How come DC lets you have TWO Geoff Johns comics in one week? Dusty memes out of the way, it’s so good to have regular Geoff Johns comics again. I may be sad to see him leave editorial, but he was always a writer at heart and now he’s back where he belongs. With the debut issue of Shazam #1, he shows nicely that he can shift genres at the drop of a hat.

While Doomsday Clock is dark and haunting, Shazam is bright and cheerful – a story of found family that turns into superheroics. Picking up directly from the events of the twelve-part Johns/Frank Shazam backup from the New 52 Justice League title, it’s been one year since Billy Batson joined the Vasquez family with his foster parents and five foster siblings. Most of the rough edges he had in the initial run have been sanded off and he resembles classic Billy Batson a lot more. The opening segment, after a brief flashback to the origin, involves Billy and Freddie on a class trip that gets interrupted by masked robbers – who then get foiled by the entire Shazam family.

It’s rare to see a band of teen/kid superheroes who actually act their age, which is why it’s so fun to watch these super-kids bicker and joke as they save the day. I really do like the new supporting cast, and youngest kid Darla, in particular, is a hilarious ball of energy. I will admit to being still peeved that Mary is now the eldest sibling and no longer a biological twin of Billy’s – that’s just such a huge part of Billy’s story, finding the sister he lost – but there’s a great energy running through this entire story. The latter half of the main story, which has Billy and his siblings exploring the Rock of Eternity and finding a hidden chamber with a mysterious train, reminds me a lot of classic adventure stories like The Chronicles of Narnia, and the cliffhanger has a shocking twist.

But don’t overlook the Mary Marvel backup, drawn by famous Shazam fanartist Sen and chronicling Mary’s escape from an abusive home and her time becoming one of the first foster kids of the Vasquez family. It also debuts the modern DCU version of a classic Shazam character, and I couldn’t be happier. For the first time since Jerry Ordway’s The Power of Shazam, it feels like we have a creator who totally gets these characters.

Mary Marvel’s story. Via DC Comics.

Corrina: I liked the feature story.

I loved the backup story.

There’s a page that will soon be posted everywhere, as Mary is leaving her abusive parents and climbing down the fire escape. She looks up, and it’s so sad (best use of manga-style eyes I’ve seen in a mainstream superhero comic) and, at the bottom of the page, Mary has shifted from sad to determined. It’s absolutely perfect.

Psst…hey, Ray, are we counting the Convergence Shazam book? That was only 2015 and it was terrific. The creators there were Jeff Parker and Doc Shaner, which would have been my first choice for a new Shazam ongoing, especially since I thought Johns’ new 52 Shazam story was needlessly gritty.

But this Johns series is off to a much a promising start. Johns is such a chameleon as a writer but I’m just glad he’s channeling the original vibe of the Shazam stories this time. I could have done without the jokes about not being able to say “Captain Marvel” because it threw me out of the story. Everyone called the Big Red Cheese Shazam already anyway. 🙂 But, still, that’s just a niggle in what’s an enjoyable issue overall. 

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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