The Power of Shazam! continues in the same vein as many of the recent trades on “the shelf”, reimagining each hero’s origin story within the new, single universe.
As the trade began, I worried that I would be bored, reading a retelling of a story I had just read.
I was, luckily, very wrong.
As the story begins, it’s not even clear that this is a story about Captain Marvel. We begin in an ancient Egyptian Tomb, and it is only through the slow, subtle revelation of names that we learn two of the featured characters are named Batson, and are presumably Billy Batson’s parents.
Unfortunately, they don’t fair too well in the story, with both being murdered by one of their fellow archaeologists:
It’s not until a decent way into the trade that Billy Batson even appears, but I actually found this to be a positive aspect of the comic. The original Captain Marvel backstory was so simplistic that Billy’s parents are hardly even referenced. Here, not only do we get a richer description of who they were, we also get to see their connection to a certain hated villain, Dr. Sivana.
When Billy Batson finally appears in the comic, his story starts to feel very familiar. This version doesn’t stray too far from the original, with Billy still being summoned by the original Shazam and given the gift of his powers.
Having the backstory involving his parents adds a new level to the reader’s understanding of this character, making his transformation here much more poignant than the original.
Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of this comic is the fact that the reader is reminded that although Billy is physically transformed every time he says “Shazam”, mentally he is still a little boy. Especially when he is first adapting to his new powers, there are numerous instances of Captain Marvel making mistakes and responding in a very child-like manner:
I love that Billy’s true personality still shows through in these comics. Yes, he may be a powerful superhero after his transformation, but deep down he’s still just a kid. Not only does this endear him to the reader, it also makes him even more relatable to children, making me think that this comic is definitely geared towards younger readers, perhaps moreso than say, the recent Batman comics.
Furthering the comic’s appeal is the fact that, even though content-wise it may be written with kids in mind, it’s still extremely well thought-out, organizing the characters in a single, cohesive world.
Dr. Sivana’s tie to Billy Batson’s parents felt realistic, and helped propel the story in a natural way, rather than springing this arch-nemesis on Captain Marvel for no apparent reason.
Luckily, the comic is able to tell these stories without making them unnecessarily silly. Instead, they are given the proper amount of respect due to such an entertaining character, allowing him to be funny without veering into the world of absurdity.
Overall I was very pleased with this reintroduction of the character. I really enjoyed the first Captain Marvel trade on the shelf, but wasn’t sure how such a character would work with the newer, more serious tone given to recent stories. I’m happy to say the writers pulled it off flawlessly, expanding on Captain Marvel’s world while still keeping all of the beloved characters from the original series (heck, even Uncle Dudley makes an appearance).
With every trade I read about Captain Marvel, I just like him more and more. He’s funny, he’s endearing, and he’s more relatable than many other characters (I’m not sure what this says about me that I relate better to a kid than an adult, but oh well). I can’t wait to see if he makes any appearances with other DC characters. Please tell me he meets Superman one day and is completely awestruck at meeting his hero, as only a little kid could be.
When I read about that, I’ll be able to die happy.