Visiting Gotham from Fawcett City for a gift shopping trip, Billy Batson and Tawky Tawny step into a nightmare. Over-emotional citizens are venting their feelings on one another, with old ladies beating up burly bikers and crazed ballerinas shaking their tutus at passers-by. With one magic word, SHAZAM!, Billy becomes Captain Marvel and sets about saving the citizenry from itself. Cap finds Batman, who explains that Psycho Pirate has broadcast dangerous emotions throughout the city, and while Cap’s magical nature protects him, Batman is in a pit of despair.
Sholly Fisch’s script is a model of highly enjoyable efficiency, quickly introducing the players and situation, having fun with them, then wrapping things up in a neat Christmas bow. Cap is the perfect guest hero, his childlike, inspirational nature proving just what Batman and his fellow Gothamites need, while apathetic, cynical Batman is surprisingly good fun. Psycho Pirate’s Scream-style Medusa mask is a hoot, Mr Tawny remains the best Tweed-wearing talking tiger ever, and the folk of Gotham make the most of a rare starring role.
If you’re like me and have missed seeing a traditional portrayal of the Marvel Family in the DC Universe over the past few years, this comic is for you, with Cap, Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr all present and on charming form. And lovers of obscure DC lore will be amused by the one-panel, offhand flashback showing Batman resolving Jason’s Quest, a three-issue Showcase story from 40 years ago.
Penciller Rick Burchett and inker Dan Davis do a splendid job of capturing Cap and Batman zooming around a vibrant Gotham, and there’s a great one-panel summation of Batman’s origin. Burchett’s cover is a dramatic delight. The jolly colours are provided by Heroic Age, and Travis Lanham letters (I’m not sure whether he, or Burchett, provided the very Captain Marvel-style title lettering for ‘That Holiday Feeling’ but it looks wonderful).
Oh, and anyone as bored as me at the tedious tendency of artists to pose Batman with gargoyles will get a kick out of this panel (click to enlarge). Nice one!