The new Shazam! series, brilliantly timed to release around the time the movie launches, has taken the early 2019 crown for most disappointing new title by being too dense for new readers and too bland for long suffering fans of the original Captain Marvel. This issues story, written by Geoff Johns, goes through the motions of bringing the hallmarks of the characters (family interactions, weird characters, a sense of wonder) but nothing seems to really connect with the reader. The first issue set the series up well as the family explores a newly discovered area of the Rock of Eternity, an abandoned train station that allows travel to different areas of the Magiclands. This time they travel to the first of these realms, The Gamelands which is a twisted sort of amusement park run by the King Kid who has a secret of his own.
The entire issue seems to be a little bit off and it is hard to say what the problem is but it may be the change of artists. The first issue featured top notch artwork from Dale Eaglesham who excelled at showing the kids with a wide range of expressions and was a great compliment to the story while this issue sees Marco Santucci take over. This may be why the second issue was delayed a month and features a Christmas cover at the end of January. Marco does a solid if unspectacular job; the characters are stiffer, the panels often feel cramped and there is not sparkle of mischief coming off the page.
Captain Marvel, or Shazam as he has been retconned to be named, has always been one of my favorite characters but he has been hard to get right. I fondly remember the original stories of course but also loved the Shazam: The New Beginning mini-series from the 80’s, the The Power Of Shazam! by Jerry Ordway and the Jeff Smith min-series among others. The character is wonderful when used correctly but he is hard to nail down correctly. This newest series tries but after the solid first issue it is back into the skip pile for the time being.
DC Comics – $3.99