Billy Batson has been largely absent from the DC Universe since Rebirth back in 2016. But, with the prospect of a feature film on the horizon, it seems DC felt the time was right to give us Shazam #1. Fortunately, longtime fans who’ve waited more than a decade for an ongoing Shazam title should find plenty to like here.
The book gives us two different stories. First is the reintroduction of the Shazam team as they bust up a museum heist and discover a new subterranean mystery. This is followed by an origin for Billy’s sister Mary, detailing how she came to be part of the family.
Geoff Johns is writing with a purpose here, focusing on getting the first story arc going with a running start. He chooses not to go into depths with Billy’s origin, and instead get straight to business with the heroics.
We get just enough backstory to keep up in Shazam #1. We know Billy has magic powers, and he’s living with several foster siblings in the Vasquez home (as seen during the New 52). Most exposition is confined to the first three pages of the first story, Shazam and the Seven Magic Lands. This allows new and old readers alike to jump right in to the action with the entire Shazam family (yes, even Hoppy the Marvel Bunny).
Shazam #1 has charm that can appeal to readers of any age. It also helps that this first issue gives us a chance to get to know our characters. The kids each have a distinct personality, and while some of their interactions can feel a little Hallmark-ish, I buy them as actual kids.
Any issues here are relatively minor; for example, it seems a little strange that a runaway living on the street would simply get filed into the foster care system. However, I’m willing to chalk that up to plot expediency. Beyond that, Shazam #1 is an excellent, lighthearted start to the series.
Different figures tackle art duties on the two stories in this issue. Dale Eaglesham provides ink for the first story, with color work provided by Mike Atiyeh.
Eaglesham does a good job laying out the panels and conveying a sense of motion throughout. However, his attention to detail really shines in the two-page spreads that crop up here and there. If there is a weak point in their pages of Shazam #1, it would probably lie in the facial expressions. Some come across as overly-exaggerated and distorted, appearing more manic than emotive.
Artwork for Mary is provided by Mayo “SEN” Naito, a Japanese artist new to the DC bullpen. The artwork definitely has heavy manga influence with softer line work and colors. It’s an interesting take, but it fit the character and tone of the story well.
Shazam #1 is a fun and fast-paced new adventure for the world’s mightiest mortal. This title that should appeal to both new readers and devotees of the character. I recommend it.