Witness the re-birth of a DC legend as the story of young Billy Batson is re-mastered for the pages of the New 52. This graphic novel is comprised of issues from the pages of the New 52’s Justice League, as a young Shazam/Captain Marvel goes toe to toe with his foil and first challenge… Black Adam.
Having discovered this book a week or two before Christmas it made the perfect gift as the story takes place during the festive season. While everyone is getting ready for Christmas, Billy Batson, an orphan, has just been accepted into a new foster family. Billy is such a fiery young character that, despite being flawed and troubled, he is not one to shy away from standing up for what he believes in. Billy adds a large amount of humour to the book and is certainly a troubled youth. But this allows for some great writing as we see a care-free young man have to take on a responsibility and then some. Billy is content doing his own thing. He has been returned to the orphanage on multiple occasions as his foster parents have found him too troublesome. He is one of the older orphans and life has taught him to always trust himself. But he has found comfort is his life that has no responsibilities.
Whilst we are introduced to Billy another story is taking place simultaneously, the story of Black Adam. Dr. Sivana, a man obsessed with the mystics of magic, is on a journey to find the man known as Black Adam, the hero of Khandaq. Dr. Sivana is gifted with the ability to see magic, the alternate dimension running simultaneously with our reality. But his visions come at a price, as it takes a toll on his body. However, he is able to achieve his goal as he finds the sacred tomb and resurrects Black Adam. In this graphic novel the reader is also treated to the New 52 origin story of Black Adam, so this is almost like a two for the price of one deal happening in this book.
Geoff Johns has showcased his story-telling talent within this volume. The writing makes the farfetched reality of magic feel natural and believable. The story is engaging. From the minute you open the book you are taken on an adventure that contains everything a great read needs. You have humour, action, tension, morals and more. The brief adventures Billy has after being granted the powers of Shazam are very entertaining. He is magically obligated to stop crime, so he decides to make a profit by stopping crime and getting potential victims to thank him in the form of cold hard cash. Show me a person who had not thought of charging people if they became a superhero and I will show you a liar. This origin tale is believable, honest and told through the experiences of a boy stuck in the body of a super powered, magically charged mortal. Meanwhile, he has to battle with the seven deadly sins and a man that is aware of the powers of Shazam, a man that desires to bend the world to his will no matter what the cost. Nobody is safe from Black Adams wrath and his goal of world domination. Black Adam desires to end this world so a new one can be born; one which he will mould to his desire.
Gary Frank brings this graphic novel to life with detailed and precise art. The story is kept colourful, alluding to the youthful nature of the protagonist, but pencilling is crisp and clear. While panels involving Black Adam tend to be darker and setting up the Ying-Yang nature of Black Adam and Shazam, the book is set during the festive period so expect colour as the art captures the joy of Christmas… at least until Black Adam arrives. The action sequences are highly detailed, but drawings are kept sharp and easy to follow, allowing for no distractions. Facial expressions are recognisable and detailed allowing you to feel the pain and triumphs of the various characters involved.
This graphic novel is a solid worthwhile buy and a definite must have for fans of Shazam/Captain Marvel. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank continue their great work as a tag team as they move their winning combination from Batman: Earth One to Shazam Vol 1. They have produced a believable story about Earth’s Mightiest Mortal. Will he become the hero he is supposed to be, will Billy ruin his potential with his misguided ways or will his potential be crushed by the powerful Black Adam and the Seven Deadly Sins? This adventure guarantees a magical Christmas for heroes and villains alike.