SHAZAM!: THE MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL TP Written by Jeff Smith Art and cover by Jeff Smith “Remarkable … a comic book that can be savored and admired by everyone from kids to the most sophisticated graphic novel devotee.” — Entertainment Weekly Jeff Smith, the award-winning creator of BONE, tells the story of young orphan Billy Batson who finds himself transformed into the World’s Mightiest Mortal whenever he says the magic word “Shazam!” In this new trade paperback edition collecting the cclaimed 4-issue miniseries at DC’s standard trim size, Billy must use these extraordinary abilities to face an invasion of alien creatures as well as stop mad scientist Dr. Sivana and his Monster Society of Evil from taking over the world! Advance-solicited; on sale March 4 • 208 pg, FC, $19.99 US
Convergence: Shazam - the best (and best looking) title to come out of this “Event”:Thoughts on the state of the Marvel Family
So I’ve already briefly gushed and posted posts about the “Convergence: Shazam” #1 title (written by Jeff Parker, art by Evan “Doc” Shaner and colors by Jordie Bellaire) and there’s a reason for it.
You see, I am extremely cynical about DC Editorial’s relationship with the Marvel Family (remember Didio saying the “Marvels didn’t fit the modern DCU” and then we had Countdown! and FC Mary and Freddy/Shazam and Billy as the Wizard who did nothing? - yeah). The only “good” versions of the Marvels seem to come out of non-continuity titles - Jeff Smith’s “Monster Society of Evil”, Mike Kunkle/Art Baltasar and Franco’s “Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam” (for the Johnny DC line) and Grant Morrison’s treatment of Billy in “Final Crisis: Superman Beyond” and Multiversity’s “Thunderworld” (though Morrison also gave us Final Crisis Mary Marvel). Meanwhile over at the regular DCU, we have Judd Winick’s dreckful “Trials of Shazam”, the aforementioned treatment of Mary Marvel (which I really do think is something everyone involved with that should be ashamed of), and the depowering of Billy, Mary and Freddy right before the old DCU ended which left the Shazam franchise in such a state that it HAD to be rebooted - which gave us Billy Doucheson/Bratson, where the most idealistic hero in the DCU (more so than Superman) was turned into a juvenile delinquent and a jerk (because that makes him SO much more relatable?) On par with the rest of the “new 52″, DC and Geoff Johns apparently think you can’t have heroes (especially teen heroes) who do heroic things just because…they are good…and kind…and you know…heroic. So slap Kyle Rayner’s origin on Billy Batson and Boom! new Shazam! Billy goes from being a one in a billion incorruptible soul who deserves the powers of Shazam, to just a bratty kid who just happened to get picked by chance. And then there’s DC’s elevation of Black Adam as the “face” of the Shazam! franchise - which really fits the current regime at DC - putting characters who aren’t heroic ahead of those who are.
Which brings us to “Convergence: Shazam”. Yes it takes place in a continuity that no longer exists (pre-Crisis Earth-S) but it is probably the best depiction of the entire Shazam mythos in one comic in my lifetime and…guess what..no Black Adam in sight. He is not necessary at all. It does it all with Billy, Mary, Freddy (original black-haired version), Uncle Dudley, Tawky Tawny, Sivana and the original Monster Society of Evil.
The art is fabulous. THIS is how Billy, Mary and Freddy should be drawn in any ongoing title. Heck, I would even love to see Shaner on Geoff John’s re-imagined “new 52″ Marvel Family. It’s like they stepped out of the Golden Age, but are still fresh and vibrant. And Parker not only writes like someone who knows their Shazam history (something the Countdown writers, Dini aside, obviously did not), but LOVES the Marvels.
What a huge difference there is in the depiction of the Marvel Family when they have someone writing it who actually loves who they are and what they stand for, and is not trying to make them dark or edgy or more “mainstream”, or use their traditional “good-two-shoes” image to be subversive (yeah, you Morrison). Nor is it depicting Billy as someone’s stooge (cough*Damien Wayne*cough) or punching bag (cough*Injustice*cough). But to actually celebrate the Marvels as heroes in their own right - as PRIMARY heroes in their own right. It kills me to see the success of Marvel’s “Ms.Marvel” title, because it so GOOD and it’s heroine is idealistic and heroic and a role model, yet also fun and enjoyable, and know that DC treats its version of the “Marvels” (particularly Mary, who used to sell tons of her copies of her own title and was a role model for girls in the 1940s) as literal in-universe jokes and punchlines.
And more importantly heroes who don’t need the Powers of Shazam! to be heroes and who are willing to be heroes when they don’t have powers.
Want proof? Just panels from a combination of two pages of the “Convergence: Shazam!” issue.
Notice how all of this takes place while they have no powers? None of them have transformed yet. As far as they know they can no longer do that. But they are still heroes. They are still protecting their city - with the power of friendship.
Think about what Billy tells Mary: “But I don’t think it’s hopeless. I think we’ll get through this if we stay who we are” (with the “who we are” bolded). That’s what Billy Batson is all about. It’s what Didio doesn’t understand. Billy represents “HOPE” (heck Paul Dini’s and Alex Ross’s graphic novel about Captain Marvel is literally titled: “Shazam: The Power of Hope”). “Who we are” are heroes. That’s what Billy, Mary and Freddy are.
Thank goodness, somebody at DC (thank you Jeff Parker!) actually understands it. Let me put how defining those lines are in another perspective: Can you ever see “the new 52″ version of Billy Batson saying it?……Nope. Me either.
If there’s one Convergence book you must pick up, its this one. It may be the last time we see Billy and the “Power of Hope” in a long time.
I’ve been doodling out ideas for a Monster Society of Evil poster, so this has necessitated sketching out assorted members. Haven’t yet decided how I’ll handle the super-racist members of the MSE (because wow “Nippo”, honestly)