DC Comics Presents: Shazam! #1-The Big Red Cheese vs. a Worm
The DCEU Steps Up
Films like Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Birds of Prey have proven that the DC Extended Universe doesn’t always have to be dark and somber. They also don’t need to copy the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s success by relying on connecting everything together. Plus, they’ve been able to try some unique things that even the MCU hasn’t done.
Shazam! is another of these as it wasn’t afraid to be fun, colorful, and adapt the silliest aspects from the comics. This was evident all throughout but especially in the ending that introduced Mister Mind, an alien telepathic worm that’s Marvel’s archenemy. Hopefully that might mean that the sequel will have him as the main villain.
The Monster Society of Evil
Issues 38 to 41 of the late ’90s series The Power of Shazam!, as collected in DC Comics Presents: Shazam! #1, prove just how formidable Mind is. Since this a story from the late ‘90s, the main character is still going by Captain Marvel and as thus so will this review.
The storyline starts out with Commander Steel, of the Bureau of Meta-Human Affairs, actually being controlled by Mind and sending out Mister Atom, a robot Marvel had fought before. Mind has it nuke Fairfield, near Fawcett City, where Batson’s foster parents live. Being in Fawcett at the time, Captain and Mary Marvel witness the event and fear that their foster parents are dead.
Soon after, the Marvels break into Steel’s facility to question him about Atom’s attack and Mind’s whereabouts. Before things escalate, Superman arrives to calm the Captain and doesn’t find the worm in Steel’s head, as Mind is actually inside his robot hand. Once the heroes leave, Mind’s plan becomes clear, as he sends out duplicates of himself to take control of military figures and power plants workers and have the nukes and reactors explode.
Little Worm In a Big Robot
Later on, just as Billy and Mary Batson lose hope in finding their foster parents, they are reunited as they were taken to a military hospital after the nuke hit. Soon after, Steel, as he is waiting outside of the Oval Office, pulls a gun to his head as he tries to break free from Mind’s control. He’s soon surrounded by the Secret Service, as well as Mary Marvel with a device that gets the worm out of Steel, but he escapes.
Back at the Meta-Human Bureau, Captain goes after a soldier controlled by Mind but his small nemesis manages to enter and control a giant green robot. With Mary’s help, the two fight Mind until he manages to grow large and break out of the robot, going on a rampage throughout D.C..
Marvels, Titans, and Lanterns
As they fight the giant Mind, Captain Marvel, Jr. and the rest of the Teen Titans look for the duplicates after learning about the worm’s plans from Steel and manage to find a few of them. When Captain rescues a camera man, he realizes that the giant Mind is actually an illusion and that the real one is still in the robot. Green Lantern Kyle Rayner assists them, along with a version of Hal Jordan from the past.
Although Mind initially tricks the Marvels into fighting themselves, all four manage to break through his mind tricks and destroy the robot. Once the Lanterns leave, Marvel tries to get Mind to stop the rest of its duplicates. He refuses no matter what Marvel does to him until a recuperated Steel destroys him, thus rendering the duplicates inactive.
Writer and Cover Artist
Jerry Ordway is the writer of not only this storyline, but also wrote the original graphic novel from 1994 that served as the basis for the series, all 47 issues, the ‘96 annual, and the DC One Million tie-in. The only exception being the Blackest Night tie-in that counts as issue 48 in 2010.
Though Ordway did do the cover art with Alex Sinclair, something he did himself with all of the other issues. The covers of issues 38-41 are all very detailed and have an epic feel to them, what with nuclear explosions and a giant Mind.
One Writer To Tell It All
Ordway’s writing, meanwhile, is incredible as he tells such an engaging story that has great amounts of drama and fun moments that perfectly capture the character’s cheesiness. Even if you don’t know what was going on in the DC Universe at the time, Ordway does a good job for the most part at keeping readers informed of what was going on. But you still have moments like a past version of Hal Jordan showing up without any explanation.
What’s interesting is that there aren’t a lot of action scenes and most of the focus is mainly on the drama and the search for Mind. Proves that superhero comic books aren’t just about punching and shooting lasers at each other.
A Mix of the ’40s and ’90s
The artwork of these four issues was a combination of penciler Pete Krause, inker Dick Giordano, and colorist Glenn Whitmore. It’s very detailed, colorful, and done in a way that combines the styles of the ‘40s and the then ‘90s in such a beautiful way. Letterer John Costanza does a great job at placing both word balloons and info boxes, never getting in the way of the art.
There are, however, moments where certain designs, or even postures that characters make, aren’t well done and look really silly, like Captain or Mary sometimes flying with their limbs spread out in odd ways. And while the fight scenes are epic, many of those design problems occur in them.
DC Comics Presents: Shazam! #1 is a collection that is worth getting not only because of how amazing the story is, but also how fun the characters are.
You can get DC Comics Presents: Shazam! #1 at Amazon.
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