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Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #1 Review

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #1 review by Hugo Bravo

Written by Mike Kunkel
Art by Mike Kunkel

Captain Marvel fans may have been disappointed to hear that his newest adventures would be a kid-friendly retelling through DC's Johnny DC line of children books. However, they would be wise to give Mike Kunkel's new series a chance. The creator of Herobear and animator for Cartoon Network's My Gym Partner is a Monkey has given us one of the most unique look at the Marvels in a long time. If you found Judd Winick's Trials of Shazam! too dark to be a true Captain Marvel story, Kunkel's new series may be right up your big red alley.

Unlike other books in Johnny DC, Magic of Shazam! isn't short and non-linear like Tiny Titans or cluttered with kiddie activities like SuperFriends. Instead, Magic of Shazam! has a complete story to tell, along with great character development and a cliffhanger to boot. Despite its cutesy looks and simple story almost completely out of DC's continuity, it's in a world like this where Captain Marvel works best.

The new series begins with Billy and Mary Batson having a blast being Fawcett City's newest superheroes, Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel. Ten-year old Billy is busy taking care of his little sister and being the breadwinner of the Batson home, which is not as tough as it could be when one has the ability to turn himself into a full-grown adult. It's as much fun seeing Captain Marvel handle a parent-teacher conference as it is to see him stop a runaway train.

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! follows up on Jeff Smith's acclaimed Shazam! and the Monster Society of Evil, where Smith made changes to Captain Marvel's history to match the new world his character now inhabits. Making Mary Marvel much younger than her brother, even in hero mode, is an inspired decision that made her infinitely more fun and likeable than the version currently running around in the real DC Universe. Following on this trend, Mike Kunkel recreates Shazam! supervillain and fan-favorite DC bad-ass Black Adam into a pre-teen brat who was the former possessor of the wizard Shazam!'s powers. Those who think Teth-Adam could only work as a destructive force of anger will be pleasantly surprised to read this incarnation. You can almost hear the voice of Tiny Toon Adventures antagonist Montana Max coming out of 14-year old Theo Adam.

The highlight of the book is easily Kunkel's artwork. The character designs look like they could have been pulled out of the Shazam! cartoon that never came to be. The colors brilliantly look like they were done in Crayola pencils or crayon, further demonstrating Kunkel's work on TV animation.

Hollywood is getting ready to start its Shazam! movie adaptation. If they need ideas on how to create the perfect world of Captain Marvel, they need look no further than this book and Jeff Smith's work on the character. Both of these writers highlight the best aspects of Marvel and his co-stars, but Mike Kunkel goes the extra mile and incorporates his most famous villain readymade for the big screen or the long-overdue cartoon. Though it may be meant for the youngest comic book reader of the household, the book has enough charm and energy to get older fans of the Marvel family and new ones on board for this retelling of the Big Red Cheese.

Rating: 8

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