The New Champion of Shazam #1 review

It’s more than 70 years since Mary Marvel had her own comic book, and she’s looking fresh thanks to illustrator Evan ‘Doc’ Shaner. She also sounds fresh in Josie Campbell’s script, narrating her heroic journey to date. Current DC continuity has Mary Bromfield as one of seven foster kids, but here she goes out on her own, her hard work providing a ticket to a prestigious university.

Her roommates seem seriously cool to Mary, and impetuousness sees her trying to impress them.

It’s a new beginning for ‘Marina’, what could possibly derail this great new life? How about a talking rabbit?

Soon, though, courtesy of a portal conjured up by Hoppy, our heroine is in a new costume and protecting hostages from a bank robber calling himself Disaster Master.

You can’t tell from this image, but DM doesn’t half look like he’s a member of the Sivana family, traditional enemies of the Marvels. Of course, trademark law being what it is, Mary isn’t ‘Mary Marvel’ here, she’s ‘The New Champion of Shazam’. As names go, that’s as clunky as you can get, and it brings with it the problem we’ve had for years now of Shazam Family members who can’t introduce themselves without reversing their magical transformation.

My guess is that the title comes from someone high up the corporate food chain and that Campbell will find a way to circumvent the awkwardness (which extends to the logo – do we really need a letter ‘Z’ comprising seven strokes? And the exclamation mark is only identifiable by context). We shall see.

I like the chapter title a bit more, ‘The New Adventures of Someone Else’. It made me smile.

The set-up for Mary’s new role is depressing – she has to take on the mantle of Earth’s Shazam person because Billy is in self-imposed exile at the Rock of Eternity due to a really stupid Titans Academy storyline. The execution, though, is excellent, with Campbell quickly letting us know who Mary is better than she knows herself. I really felt for her as her potentially great new life gets very complicated, very quickly.

I wonder if Campbell is going to explore the fact Mary is steamrolled into becoming a superhero once again. She’s very clear that she doesn’t want to be Mary Shazam or whoever, but it seems ‘no’ doesn’t mean ‘no’ to the long ears of an enchanted rabbit. It’s all very well being a ‘Chosen One’ in the Golden Age of comics but it feels less comfortable today.

The scene with Mary’s family at the start of the comic is just lovely, but I’m less keen on Mary’s new pseudo-family, the roommates.

Are we meant to be as impressed by them as is Mary? They’re trying much too hard, and who forces a smelly old rabbit on their roomies?

Campbell’s Mary reads well, I’m rooting for her and don’t doubt she’ll make a good fist of her new, enhanced role. Dealing with the extra power levels is a nice wrinkle, though I could do without the lightning bolts… this would have been the perfect opportunity to get rid of them. We may not be able to call Mary ‘Marvel’ but the traditional power set would be nice. Maybe by the end of the run… Meanwhile, we have a sharp first issue script, with drama and humour nicely balanced.

Shaner’s full colour art is, as usual, pretty darn delightful. Mary Marvel always looked a lot more like Mary Bromfield than Captain Marvel did Billy Batson, and that continues here – costumed Mary appears maybe two years older, tops. Both Marys look excellent, sharp and spunky, though Mary Bromfield is a tad more gauche; in those ‘Marina’ panels Shaner uses a coloured background to simply, but clearly, show the emotions she’s feeling.

Bianca and Cassidy are great designs, and Hoppy is as cute as heck. What’s more, Shaner doesn’t stint on the background players, rendering then fully. As for the emotions, there’s a well-executed moment with Mary’s foster sister Daria that had me welling up.

Becca Carey’s bright and breezy letters sit well on the art, with choices such as Mary’s trademark red and yellow for her narrative boxes appreciated. And extra kudos if Carey did the credits page version of the title, it’s much more to my taste than the cover masthead.

The fun issue is topped off with a glorious cover. Thanks to the whole creative team, including editors Jillian Grant, Brittany Holzherr and Paul Kaminski for giving Mary Marvel (yeah, Mary Marvel, wanna make something of it?) the spotlight she deserves

14 thoughts on “The New Champion of Shazam #1 review

  1. She can’t be called Mary Marvel any longer, or it was someone’s bright idea to stop doing so? I’m never keen on seeing Billy Batson being replaced, as he gets little upfront before DC abandons all-things Captain Marvel yet again, but this series cements that they have no direction for these characters. Mary’s heroine identity doesn’t even have a name. That’s a hard goof to top.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My understanding is that it’s only on the cover that they can’t use ‘Captain Marvel’. In the book, they can be called Marvels. It’s a (stupid) choice by DC.
      And keep in mind that it wasn’t until New 52 that they switched to ‘Shazam’ as the character/family name.

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  2. ll attempts to modernize the OG Captain Marvel have failed to gain traction over the long haul so how about this: Hire someone to look atthe changes and evolution of Superman through the years. Then worksop those changes to Billy as well. Use it to figure out how the character and world would have evolved over time. Then launch a new series featuring what theoretically a moder Captain Nor-Marvel would have been if not cancelled way back when. Oh and go with Captain Thunder.

    This could have all been avoided had DC bought Captain Marvel after the lawsuit had been settled. How the DCU would have been different is a second thought experiment I like to do when bored. A third is what would it be like if Green Arrow had been the popular hero and Batman the also ran. It’s fun picturing a new look Batman!

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    1. So instead of constant relaunches and new versions of the origin, it would be the Marvel Family as they’d be had they never gone away. Fascinating!

      But didn’t we get a New Look Batman?

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      1. Yes indeed, it’s just that when Julie Schwartz took on Batman in 1964 and the costume got the yellow circle, that was known as the New Look… so he did the New Look thing before GA, just less radically.

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  3. I wasn’t going to pick up the book at first, but I’m glad I did as it is quite a charming little thing. I agree on the roommate, especially the 21st-century hippy 😀 , are a bit too much but I guess it’s a shorthand for a Mary who feels she’s uncool!

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  4. “I wonder if Campbell is going to explore the fact Mary is steamrolled into becoming a superhero once again.”

    I suppose, but I would put it differently.

    This reads like a YA novel to me (though it’s so retro looking, and evokes such a nice nostalgic feeling, that I enjoyed it despite that). Being YA, it’s about finding oneself (the theme of all YA novels). Most obviously stated, she needs to figure out who “Mary” is – does she need to put on the air of a cooler “Marina”? (The answer will be no.) Does she not fit in? (The answer by the end will be that she does.) The theme is spelled out in the early pages – college is for “finding yourself… figure out who Mary really is.”

    But I predict the flip side of it will also be finding herself to also be, er, The New Champion of Shazam For Lack of a Better Name! She’ll learn to accept both identities, and the lesson is to grow in all the ways you can, accept all facets of yourself, take on the responsibilities that have fallen to you even if you would have preferred otherwise, and unselfishly use any extra abilities you have to help others less capable. (There – can I have a contract now to write my own YA novel? Just send me an advance!)

    I like the retro fonts on that credit page – the old-fashioned typeface for the words “The New Champion,” and the crooked letters for “Chapter One.” The yellow edges of the narration boxes throughout look like deliberate emulation of the print offset problems Golden and Silver age comics were known for, and the best example of that might be when Mary falls back out of the window – the “BOOM” (probably lettered by Shaner rather than Carey) filled in with Ben-Day dots has red ink bleeding all around the edges. (That is, it looks to *me* like it’s trying to look like the old print defects, but maybe it’s just trying to look like a deliberate red shadow.)

    Anyway, I see no reason she can’t be called Mary Marvel, and I hope it happens. It’s just a name, a word. Otherwise it’s like saying Deadpool can’t be Wade Wilson because Deathstroke is Slade Wilson.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I wouldn’t be too hard of Mary’s roommates. They’re just doing the same thing Mary’s doing by calling herself Marina — putting their best foot forward and trying to reinvent themselves in a new place. We’re in Mary’s head, so she has our sympathy as she does it, but “trying too hard” is pretty common on those first days of college.

    And as for the bunny? Cassidy is obviously okay with it, and if Mary wanted to nix it, she should have showed up for their zoom meetings. (And, of course, if the bunny is a dealbreaker, she can probably swap rooms with someone.) It’s not the greatest thing to show up with a bunny someone doesn’t expect, but Bianca did try to get in touch with her.

    Anyway, I really liked this! And I hope someday they call her Mary Marvel again. The problem with coming up with another name is it’s almost certainly not going to stick.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a very good point about Mary’s roommates, I guess I was taking her thoughts too literally.

      Is Cassidy OK about Mary having the rabbit? She looks distinctly nonplussed.

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