09 August 2008

Captain Marvel Takes Off Again

Readers eagerly awaiting the next volume of Jeff Smith's Bone comics as reissued by Scholastic should check out the big comics project he turned to next after completing Bone in its original, black and white form.

It's Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil, created for DC Comics. This volume retells the origin and an early adventure of Captain Marvel, as well as his sister Mary Marvel. It also picks up elements of a 1940s Captain Marvel story arc, a rare multi-volume story from American comic books' "Golden Age." However, readers don't have to know anything about Captain Marvel before picking up this book.

Like Bone, Smith's Shazam! is both layered and easy to follow, poking at deep ideas but fun for all ages. The art reflects his personal style, which is in between the very simple cartoons that C. C. Beck used for the original Captain Marvel stories and the "default style of the superhero mainstream." Though it changes some elements of the Big Red Cheese's mythology, such as making Tawny Tiger a shape-changing ifrit instead of a tiger in a business suit, Smith sticks to the simple values beneath any good Shazam story.

For readers wanting more after this, Judd Winick and Josh Middleton's take on the first meeting of Captain Marvel and Superman, Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder, has some of the same simplicity and a few very good moments, but less depth in the end.

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