• December 2019
    S M T W T F S
    « Nov    
    1234567
    891011121314
    15161718192021
    22232425262728
    293031  
  • On Facebook

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Comic Blog Elite

    Comic Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

The ’80s Revisited: Shazam: The New Beginning #s 1-4

shazamthenewbeginning001Writers: Roy and Dann Thomas
Artist: Tom Mandrake
Inker: Jan Duursema
Letterers: Agustin Mas
Colorists: Carl Gafford, Joe Orlando
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Dates: April/May/June/JUly 1987
Cover Price: $0.75

Until this month, I’d really only known DC‘s Captain Marvel (Shazam) as a guest-star…an important figure, but I’d only really ever stuff where he was a guest-star, not THE star, of a book. While memory may fail me, I’m pretty sure my first real introduction to the character was Action Comics Annual #4 (a 1992 Eclipso: The Darkness Within crossover).

I saw him again pictured in Death of Superman stuff–the funeral stuff at least. I believe I would have seen him in Zero Hour, and I was aware of the Power of Shazam series though I’ve yet to actually read any issues except the Blackest Night issue from a few years ago. Maybe his most significant–and to me, emotional–appearance was in Kingdom Come.

Of course, he again wound up on my radar with the Superman/Shazam: First Thunder story shortly before Infinite Crisis, and then during the magical side of that story. I was aware of (but again have yet to read) the Trials of Shazam series. I was aware of the “corruption” of Mary Marvel with the Final Crisis stuff, and recall seeing Captain Marvel in the I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League, as well as an issue or two of Giffen/DeMatteis‘ original Justice League. And of course, I was aware of the property from various things I’ve read about the history of comics, and seeing solicitations for the various collected volumes (such as the Showcase volume).

And most recently, probably getting my hands on the collected edition of Jeff Smith‘s Shazam and the Monster Society of Evil and a few issues of the Johnny DC Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam series.

shazamthenewbeginning002I saw the Monster Society of Evil and Billy Batson stuff as stand-alone/out-of-continuity things, so haven’t considered those.

Which brings me to my recent acquisition/reading of the New 52 Shazam vol. 1, which in turn led me to an immediate reading of the serendipitously having-just-bought this entire 4-issue mini in a quarter-bin…which I understand backtracks a bit from the Legends crossover and tells the origin of Billy Batson and Captain Marvel in context of the then-new DC Universe post-Crisis on Infinite Earths.

All of the above to get to actually talking about the issues this post purports to be about.

Much as I wanted to LIKE this, much as I was interested–at least conceptually–in reading this, and appreciate HAVING read it, now having the “experience” of the series as part of my Shazam/Captain Marvel knowledge-base…the series was ROUGH to get through.

First and foremost, this is a series from some 25 years ago–more than 1/3 of the character’s entire existence ago. It’s very much a product of the ’80s, and quite verbose…there were times I was taken out of the story simply being overwhelmed by the density of text in any given 2-page section I’d turn to.

shazamthenewbeginning003I’m honestly quite convinced that this same story told in present-day with all the main elements would easily be done as at least 12 issues (a 3-issue mini per issue). (Given that density, I’m honestly not going to attempt to recap the story itself in this post!).

Yet, rough as it was to get through–having read primarily “new” comics for a number of years now and rarely actually delving into anything older than 1993 for more than a single issue at a time–I’m quite glad to have read this. Sure, it’s a lot packed into few pages…but while that drives against what I’m “used to,” and so gave a bit of negative by way of my having to “force” myself to stick to the series rather than read something else and then come back to it…ultimately, I am glad I did so. 

There were plenty of plot holes and “leaps” of logic, stuff that wouldn’t fly today…but there was a lot more to ’em than I imagine there’d’ve been to similar concepts a decade or two earlier, or even at the beginning of the property in the 1940s.

But we got the “essential” stuff: Billy, the Wizard, Sivana, Black Adam…even reference to Hoppy. And with the density of narration and dialogue, while not as smooth as a modern depiction, we get quite a bit of detail and motivation. Not so much “shown” as “told,” but the end result is largely the same…especially combined with my pre-existing knowledge of the character.

shazamthenewbeginning004Visually, I can’t say I was all that impressed. The art wasn’t bad, by any means…but it really didn’t stand out all that much to me (especially not compared to Gary Frank‘s art on the New 52 volume, and my memory of the cover to Action Comics Annual #4). Sure, those may be unfair comparisons, but they are what they are. It also certainly did NOT help that the copy of the issues I read are very much “reading copy” condition…with much of the art a bit faded and blurred due to the ink/newsprint paper quality from the time.

Barring specific interest in this take on the character–time period or creative team–I don’t know that I’d particularly recommend seeking these out. However, if you find ’em in a bargain-bin in readable condition, they’re worthwhile, and if you can get the set for $4 or less, the time you’ll likely spend reading one issue would “value” the issue far beyond a modern $3.99 issue.

Having now read this, I’m definitely interested in reading/re-reading other Shazam stuff…though beyond the recent Superman vs. Shazam tpb, I don’t think I’m gonna go “older” than this series…I’ll stick to the Power of Shazam run I bought a year or two back, and whatever collected volumes I can get my hands on. I’ll also be seeking out more on Black Adam, having come to like that character quite a bit under Johns‘ writing, in 52 and in JSA.

Outsiders #24 [Review]

Matter of Trust

Story and Words: Peter J. Tomasi
Penciller: Fernando Pasarin
Inkers: Scott Hanna, Prentis Rollins & Fernando Pasarin
Colorist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Cover: Tom Mandrake
Asst. Editor: Harvey Richards
Editor: Michael Siglain
Publisher: DC Comics

We begin this issue much like the other Blackest Night tie-in issues: a flashback showing us the memories a black ring is downloading to use with an animated/rebuilt corpse, concluding the scene with the command to the body to RISE. In this case, it’s Tara Markov again, and fresh off menacing the Titans, now she goes to her brother and the others of the Outsiders. As the Outsiders seek to find the truth about what’s going on, the readers know it’s not quite what they think–or want to think. Meanwhile: Tatsu, Violet, and Creeper are transporting Killer Croc, and bump into Black Lanterns of their own to deal with…Tatsu’s dead family.

This is one of those issues that is far easier to read than it is to describe. Visually, I recognize everyone; the names I’m a little less confident with and have to search through the issue to find references (I’m pretty sure Tatsu and Violet are “civilian” names and not the characters’ codenames).

With the Blackest Night: Titans mini and its flashbacks, and other series lately dealing with the Titans’ history and characters related to them, I have that thin understanding that works fine while reading, but isn’t strong enough for me to really “get” fully. In a way, that’s something on the writing; but at the same time, the fact that I can read the story even not knowing much about the characters nor their status quo prior to this point is more positive than negative.

The art’s quite good; no real complaints from me. Everyone looks as I’d expect–if there’s any expectation–and at the very least, I recognize pretty much everyone. Even the Black Lantern has expressiveness…there’s a panel where one would almost feel bad for her, if one doesn’t keep in mind what’s been learned so far about these Black Lanterns.

Probably the largest factor that makes this work so well for me is that it is written by Tomasi, who has been doing plenty of other writing within the Blackest Night event, and presumably he is incorporating enough that even without non-Blackest Night knowledge, there’s some building continuity just within the event’s story.

All in all, a very solid tie-in, and certainly worth getting if you’re following either Blackest Night or the title itself. Then, of course, there’s also that little ring that ought to come with the issue, as well.

Story: 8/10
Art: 8/10
Whole: 8/10

Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #2 [Review]

Full review posted to comixtreme.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

Battle for the Cowl: Commissioner Gordon #1 [Review]

A Cold Day in Hell

Written by: Royal McGraw
Art by: Tom Mandrake
Colors by: Guy Major
Letters by: Sal Cipriano
Asst. Edited by: Harvey Richards
Edited by: Michael Siglain
Cover: Ladronn
Publisher: DC Comics

I came on way late with GOtham Central back in the day, though after reading the first hardcover realized it should have been tops on my list years earlier. Given the nature of that title, I had high hopes for this issue…hopes that weren’t entirely realized, but not really dashed, either.

We begin with Gordon prisoner of one of Batman’s foes, before flashing back a bit to show us how it is that he came to be in this position. It’s not long before Gordonrealizes that his confrontation with this foe comes down to just them–Batman’s “dead,” after all–and we see James Gordon the cop here, not just a figure calling in Batman with a spotlight on top of a building.

The story’s fairly straightforward here; nothing spectacular. But we do get a look at Gordon and how the GCPD is faring without Batman in town. This doesn’t strike me as a definitive Gordon story–but it’s nothing that seems to really counter anything that’s come before. In fact, it seems to affirm many of the elements of the Batman “universe” I enjoy.

The art’s pretty good, and fits the story. I particularly liked that it managed to in a few particular panels take my mind exactly where I think it was supposed to, invoking other comics and even the Batman animated series from the 1990s (a series that absolutely cannot be ignored in the staging of this issue).

All in all, this was a solid issue, but not really integral to anything. It’s a nice look at supporting elements, but it doesn’t seem likely to inform events of the core mini. Well worth it if you’re a fan of the character or want to see the wider scope of the Batman/Gotham “universe” but not something you’d need if you’re just along for the core Battle for the Cowl series.

Story: 7.5/10
Art: 7.5/10
Whole: 7.5/10

%d bloggers like this: