(From an extended feature, copyright 2007 Michael F. Hopkins)
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.