I appreciate DC for their approach with the Showcase Presents trades. They have kept many classic titles alive for those of us that can't afford Archive editions; however, in many cases this highlights the problems inherent in certain series. SHOWCASE PRESENTS: SHAZAM! is an example.
There are some things that DC just can't seem to get right, no matter how hard they try. One of the biggest is how to handle characters from other companies. Their recent acquisition of the IPC characters is on the verge of failure, as evidenced by ALBION, BATTLER BRITON, and THUNDERBOLT JAXXON. Their `80s purchase of the Charlton heroes led to a decent run of THE QUESTION, but little else (WATCHMEN doesn't count!). But DC already had a bad rep back in the `70s when they acquired one of the greatest Golden Age heroes, the original Captain Marvel. The resulting SHAZAM! series was a misguided effort to introduce the Big Red Cheese to a new generation of readers by trying to recapture the feel of his original adventures. Unfortunately, that new generation was already enjoying more complex and mature comics at the time: hard-traveling heroes, New Gods, and a dark knight detective were finally bringing DC into a new age, so goofy fun-loving stories featuring the Shazam "family" and a talking tiger were not what was needed at the time. The series piddled around for five years, was cancelled, and Captain Marvel's reputation has, to this day, barely recovered. Even though attempts at relevance were made in the `80s (LEGENDS, JUSTICE LEAGUE), it took a brilliant double-barrel `90s revitalization by writer/artist Jerry Ordway to help CM stay above the radar.
There's an excellent roster of talent featured in this volume. Writers Denny O'Neill, E. Nelson Bridwell, and Elliott Maggin are joined by original CM artist C.C. Beck, Kurt Schaffenberger, Dave Cockrum, Dick Giordano, and Bob Oksne. It collects the "new" stories from SHAZAM! #1-35 (none of the Golden Age reprints), with O'Neill bringing CM and his supporting cast into the present day through an inspired retcon. From there, these short tales reintroduce his companions, friends, and villains, including currently popular bad-boy Black Adam. Collectively, the art is great, and Dave Cockrum's work on Captain Marvel Junior is so slick that it should get its own color reprint. Unfortunately, the stories are extremely simple and haven't aged well at all. SHOWCASE PRESENTS: SHAZAM! will serve you well as a nostalgic trip back to an interesting period in DC's history, but you should look elsewhere for good storytelling. If you really want to get into Captain Marvel, my recommendation is to instead purchase Jerry Ordway's graphic novel THE POWER OF SHAZAM and hope for a reprint of the `90s follow-up series.