Hey gang! Hope you’re charged and ready, because Pulp is ready and waiting to blow your socks off with another excellent superheroic story that to be honest, I’d completely forgotten about.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, DC is attempting to replicate the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with their own comic titles. While some have been good – Wonder Woman and Aquaman come to mind – the rest of their attempts have been substandard.
With this in mind, I was surprised to hear of an adaptation of Shazam in the works – after all, the character hasn’t traditionally been super popular outside of his heyday (DC even lost the rights to his original name – Captain Marvel – for obvious reasons) and he hasn’t seen much action in recent years. However, early reports seem positive, and it was enough to spark the memory of a Shazam book from back in the depths of the New 52 – the Geoff Johns-driven Shazam back-up story from the New 52 run of Justice League. While that probably sounds super complicated, the point is that I came across a trade paperback compilation of the story and I’m super stoked and now you get to read about it.
Billy Batson has had a rough life. In an out of foster homes for as long as he can remember, Billy has become too obnoxious and arrogant for any home to hold for long. He’s trouble, and proud of it – but destiny – in the form of an ancient wizard – is determined to prove him wrong.
Summoned to the mythical Rock of Eternity – home of the world’s greatest sorcerers and sorceresses – Billy is bestowed the power of the gods. Speaking the wizard’s name, Billy is able to transform into the mighty hero Shazam, an adult version of himself with the power of strength, flight and lightning. While Billy is delighted to gain this power, Black Adam, a former champion of the wizard, has been freed from his prison, and is determined to reclaim the mantle of champion and the powers it brings.
If it wasn’t already obvious, I have a real soft spot for Shazam/Captain Marvel. Historically, I’ve really enjoyed Geoff Johns’ work – his run on Green Lantern was legendary – and despite the changes he made to some of the story aspects (Billy traditionally hasn’t been an asshole) I still had a blast reading this book.
Special mention has to be made of Gary Frank’s (Action Comics) artwork – his character designs for Shazam, Black Adam, Dr Sivana and the wizard look absolutely spectacular, and the battles between Adam and Shazam are epic in a way that I haven’t seen in a DC book in a while. It’s not the most complex of narratives, but at the same time it doesn’t need to be – it’s a loving reintroduction to a character that had kind of fallen by the wayside.
Realistically, Shazam is the same kind of power-level as Superman, but without the same level of invulnerability, which makes him so much more interesting as far as I’m concerned.
While this book isn’t quite part of the modern DC canon – what happened in the New 52 wasn’t always carried across into Rebirth – I still think it’s worth your while, even if you just read it as a primer before the movie comes out. My hope is that the movie will spark new interest in the character, because honestly I want more stories like this one.
Written by Alastair McGibbon