We all know who Geoff Johns is. He’s had his hands on almost every major superhero in the DC Universe and masterminded some of the most memorable stories with those heroes in modern time. His runs on Green Lantern, The Flash, and Teen Titans left lasting impacts on those heroes. Now, he brings his vision and influence to Shazam and the Marvel Family with Shazam! #1.
I’m just going to come out and say it; Shazam! #1 is one of the most balanced, well-developed comic books I can recall reading from DC Comics. Being an introductory issue, I was expecting a complete retelling of Billy Batson’s origin story, a reintroduction of characters from Johns’ revamp of the Shazam concept in 2012, a tie to some major plot thread and probably a set-up of something similar to the story of the upcoming movie.
Thankfully, Johns recognizes that we don’t need a rehash of who Billy Batson is, what the Rock of Eternity is, or what Shazam’s powers are. We get a nicely condensed three page narration on Billy’s super powered origin and a clear theme: Family. We then get right into Johns vision for this series.
Johns uses a normal, everyday trip to a museum to craft the character development of Billy’s foster/superhero family. As a burglary takes place, each family member gets an opportunity to show off their personalities and superpowers. Underneath these interactions, however, Johns has placed a figurative time bomb. Billy’s family is clearly strong, but what will that mean for future conflicts? We will continue to wonder about that as we see Mary and Shazam argue about leadership, the family argue about a team name while sitting down to eat dinner together, and explore the Rock of Eternity together.
Dale Eaglesham’s uniquely raw pencils emphasize Johns’s character development by laying bare the individual emotions of each family member. When Shazam and Mary argue about team leadership, Eaglesham very simply convey’s Billy’s frustration with Mary and Mary’s stubbornness. Eaglesham also expends a lot of effort and time creating the sense of action within each panel. Everything from the way lightning bleeds off the unique panel structure, to the way Eaglesham focuses the reader’s eye through shadows and negative space, makes each panel feel important and alive.
Johns and artist Mayo Naito further develop Mary in a self-titled back-up story. As the main story excelled at character development, so too does the back up. Naito’s art is soft and crisp, bringing an innocence to Johns’s tale of Mary’s arrival at the foster home. Johns builds a strong connection between Mary and Freddy that endures as the story arrives at the point where the main story begins.
There is not a single wasted panel in Shazam! #1. Johns doesn’t get stuck in an origin story to open this series and Eaglesham brings life and energy to every panel. Naito’s art in the back up brings a very different visual element to the issue, but it all fits perfectly together. This issue is a well-developed, enticing drama that’s funny, suspenseful and visually engaging and I can’t wait to see where it goes.