Shazam & the Monster Society of Evil TP Paperback – Mar 10 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Captain Marvel returns in a new incarnation, aimed at a younger audience, by Smith, the award-winning creator of Bone. Billy Batson, a young orphan living in a condemned building, follows a mysterious figure into the subway one day and is taken to a wizard who tells him that just by speaking one word—Shazam!—he can transform into the superpowered Captain Marvel. His brand-new ability arrives none too soon, because talking alligators and giant robots are showing up all over the city. Unfortunately, Billy has just learned something else—he has a sister who is not content to wait on the sidelines while Billy gets to save the world. Smith brings to this project his considerable talent in creating comics that are as fun for children as they are for adults. The art is brightly colored and engaging, and the young characters at the center of the story are adorable. Unfortunately, the heavy-handed political allegory takes away from the charm somewhat. Longtime fans of the series may be dismayed by the radical changes to the continuity. Newcomers, however, will find plenty to be entertained by in Smith's lively reinvention.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"Smith recasts the Captain Marvel origin story in a kid-friendly sci-fi/fantasy vein, making boy hero Billy Batson into an urchin on the verge of becoming another Harry Potter. Slick, bright, emotional and witty, The Monster Society of Evil is everything super hero comics should be. Grade: A-."See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Despite the tale’s light-hearted, child-friendly tone, Smith manages to throw some strong emotional punches. Captain Marvel’s struggle is not primarily with the cosmic but rather with the mundane; it is the day-to-day troubles of Billy Batson’s life on the streets which stir up the most pathos.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This is an excellent time for Captain Marvel. Buoyed by the
stalwart work of Jerry Ordway throughout the 1990s, one
of Comicdom's elder characters is currently enjoying some
prime treatment from an array of top notch talents, from the
current TRIALS OF SHAZAM from Judd Winick, to the superb
one-shot SHAZAM: POWER OF HOPE from Paul Dini and Alex
Ross. The one many have been waiting for, the Sequential
saga from the pioneering author of BONE, is finally here.
Jeff Smith's SHAZAM: THE MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL is now
assembled in one highly impressive volume from DC Comics,
its oversized pages full of the wide-eyed wonder and
satiric wit which has distinguished the finest Captain Marvel
adventures across the decades.
In fact, the character's daring and whimsy has never been
handled better than here, in this cavalcade of thrills and
charm, magic galore and perils deeply rooted in the current
day. One look at Smith's rendition of Sivana, a holder of
high office mouthing self-serving platitudes borne dead
from the political cesspools of post-2001 Americana, and
you begin to feel the unique genius of this tale. Balance
this with his Billy Batson and Captain Marvel, as much a
wry nod to Alan Moore's MARVELMAN (No small miracle here)
as they are incisive hat tips to author Otto Binder and
artist C.C. Beck, and you perceive the achingly humorous
and meticulously wise work which Smith has wrought.
If that's not enough, try the outrageously effective
re-working of Mary Marvel as a precocious child grounded
in sheer nerve, linking the child in us all to teach this
generation what's at stake (check her final confrontation
with Sivana, if you doubt). As for Talky Tawny, the creator
of BONE's roguish tiger Rocque Ja brings an exceptional
take to one of the most revered characters of the entire
Captain Marvel mythos. As jocular as ever, Tawny bears a
whole new dignity and impact which further distinguishes
this tale as a standout epic.
Don't worry about fitting this tale into continuity (Which
one?). SHAZAM: THE MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL is a whopping
great storybook, filled with good vs. evil, monsters big
and small, and a colorful, hearty compassion which reaches
out to all willing to read this tale on its own merits.
Turn the fawcett on, and drink deep.
The art is the best part of the book. I've never seen a better example of art that is so inviting to younger readers to enjoy comics than in this collection. The pictures are so fun and appeal to kids of the twenty-first century the same way the original C.C. Beck art appealed to the kids of the 1940s.
Much of the story is heartfelt and has great ways of showing Billy Batson's kindness. The story is a bit more real about Billy being a homeless waif and his need for family. His love for his sister Mary was very sweet and endearing.
The only downside to the book is even though it's more than 200 pages long, it's a very picture heavy story with a lot of very cool half, full, and two page pieces of art. The problem is that at times, the book seems too small for all that's going. You not only have the titular Monster Society, you have Doctor Sivana, a mystical talking tiger, and Mary Marvel. In that way, the book feels overloaded. In addition, a few of the modern adjustments such as tension over an evil Secretary of Heartland Security (or was he Attorney General, I got confused at the point) seemed to lessen the magic. Thankfully, there was plenty of magic to go around, and this book is still by far, the best representation of Captain Marvel in more than sixty years since the character was cancelled by Fawcett.
Unfortunately, Smith can't decide whether he's writing a kiddy-comic (as the illustrations and simplistic storyline would suggest) or a post-9/11 political allegory with a Very Important Message. The biggest misstep comes in Smith's reimagining of Dr. Sivana as a thinly-veiled caricature of Attorney General John Ashcroft. As the scheming head of "Heartland Security" (no really) and all-around toady of the Military-Industrial Complex, Dr. Sivana is about as subtle as a Salon think piece ("War profiteering! That is immoral -- and illegal," Tawky Tawny helpfully reminds us). Don't get me wrong, I'm all for giving militarism a swift punch to the gut, but the clash between tone, message, and audience renders the satire inert.
What is the audience for this book, anyway? The volume of exposition is excessive for what turns out to be a pretty simplistic tale, suggesting that Smith doesn't want to lose his younger readers in complex plotting. Captain Marvel was a kid's wish-fulfillment comic from the start, and Smith's decision to make Billy and Mary Batson even younger than usual (they look about 8 or 9) suggests a book aimed squarely at preteens. However, a couple of mild profanities and abusive (though non-bloody) violence against children should be enough to steer many parents away from purchasing this book for their little ones.
Although many of the static tableau in the book are superb, Smith has difficulty giving life to the illustrated fight sequences. A showdown with the titular Monster Society in a later section of the book lasts about 4 panels and provides little context for the movements of Captain Marvel or his foes. (On the other hand, a climactic two-page spread at the end of the book provides ample evidence of the Captain's physical prowess.)
Jeff Smith's Shazam! is a misstep, plain and simple. A much better written, life-affirming, and kid-friendly story befitting the Big Red Cheese can be found in Shazam! The Power of Hope, by Paul Dini and Alex Ross (which Smith credits as an influence for this book).