Billy Batson and the Magic of SHAZAM!
Story and art by Mike Kunkel
Lettering by Steve Wands
Published by DC Comics
I'm going to be honest with you. Growing up, I was never a huge Captain Marvel fan. I guess it was because the confusion over who he really was. Was he Shazam! or Captain Marvel? Of course later in life I learned the legal issues with the name Captain Marvel and why they had to call Jackson Bostwick's show "Shazam!". Regardless of the naming debacle, he was just another Superman archetype. In addition to that, I was never a huge Superman fan. Batman though, wow, that's where most of my parent's money went, but I digress. My philosophy on the character changed when I met a guy by the name of George Marston. George and I quickly became the best of friends and he saw the character differently. Not as a magical version of Superman, but as a story that has to be any kid's biggest dream: becoming a superhero. He told me some back stories and explained the characters that went along with the Shazam! mythos. Now Dr. Sivana may not be a household name like Lex Luthor or the Joker, but he still had some amazing stories and battles with the Big Red Cheese.
And that's what it's all about: stories. On the credits of "Magic", Mike Kunkel put down the "pictures, words, and heart" for this issue, and by God does it show. You can tell with each panel and the way he uses almost an animated style to tell his story, that he does it with all his heart. This project has been a long time coming and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. I picked it up today at a nearby store and finished it in no time. Not to say it's short, but the art flows easily. There is a lot of story to tell, but it's as if he starts where Jeff Smith left off with his mini series that came out a few years back. There's no drawn-out origin, or trying to explain how these characters are...they just are. The re-telling of how Billy became Shazam's hero is explained in the first few pages, then BAM! it gets right into the story and action.
When reading the issue, I hear Patrick Warburton as the voice of Captain Marvel and from there, I just can't stop chuckling. Kunkel has an obvious love the character and his supporting cast and their history. Several mentions like "Fawcett City" and "Whiz Studios". Also, look for cameos of Kunkel creations Herobear and Sockmunster. Even the prolouge and epilouge of the issue uses the old Shazam! code they used in the 1940's radio show. Luckily, I had my decoder and had fun trying to figure out some of the story. This story tells it all. Love, kindness, humor, action and a little bit of "what's going to happen next". I praise Kunkel for taking on such a task with a character rich with history and pop culture. Like I mentioned earlier, I've waited a long time for this. It was well worth it.