The New Champion of Shazam #3 review

Mary Bromfield, now the sole bearer of the powers of the wizard Shazam, is investigating the disappearance of her parents. It turns out they’re not the only folk to have vanished off the face of Philadelphia… dozens of Missing posters tell a scary tale. After a night wrestling with the riddle, she wakes to find local cyber trolls attacking her powered self.

Her one clue is a weird maybe magical, maybe technical device embedded in the chest of super-powered bad guys who have been popping up. Time for this bright student to hit the local college lab, where her research is interrupted by very friendly teacher ‘Dr G’. Mary is gobsmacked when her professor offers her a teaching assistant position.

We don’t learn if Mary gives Dr G (I’ve a theory about who she’s going to turn out to be) an answer, but we do see the next stage of her investigation – a visit to the local subway, which seems central to the mystery. She finds a homeless camp, and the man whose been organising the Missing posters.

Mary and Uncle Marv’s information-swapping session comes to a sudden end when they find a man menacing a homeless woman. When Mary turns into…

… whoever, she finds that the guy, who goes by Babel, is a mentalist who uses doubts and fears against his victims.

It seems those internet trolls got into Mary’s head at least enough for their words to be weaponised. A combination of brains and brawn sees Mary overcome the latest mystery madman, but when she powers down and returns home, she’s reminded that her words can hurt too.

Poor Darla. But lucky readers, we’re getting a cracking action saga that’s also a fabulous character study. So often new heroes have all the answers, or someone they can turn to – with that rest of her foster family no longer powered, and not being at the centre of the superhero community, Mary’s pretty much on her own. The pressure is telling – she really should let smart little Darla in, as well as the other kids – Eugene is a tech genius, Freddy has street smarts. Heck, if she had time to think straight she might remember that one of her patrons is Minerva, goddess of wisdom, and tap into that… or perhaps she’s already doing so.

Josie Campbell’s script is nicely balanced – plenty of the personal stuff, lots of superhero fun – and while I’m not thrilled that another writer banished Billy to limbo, it leaves Mary the space to shine under Campbell’s proverbial pen.

I’m chuffed to bits to meet Uncle Marv – a new version of Uncle Dudley/Uncle Marvel. His reason not to go by given name Dudley is a bit daft, mind – he doesn’t want to be identified with Harry Potter’s Dudley Dursley. Really? ‘Uncle Dudley’ would be just fine, and it would give him an instant bonding point with Darla – her surname is Dudley!

With Marvel Family revivals I’m forever looking for nods to the old comics. We’ve already had Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, sort of, and here’s Uncle Dudley, so Babel has to be a revamp of a Golden Age villain, I thought. Well, not that I can find. But he is interesting, I like his street clothes look, and his power gives letterer Becca Carey a chance to shine.

Also shining once more is artist Evan ‘Doc’ Shaner, with subtle, sensitive character work – that Darla moment is heartbreaking, while Mary’s frustration is as evident as much as her determination. I’m still not convinced by the new movie-inspired flappy skirt, I’ve always been a fan of Bob Oksner’s clean-lined Seventies look. I suspect Shaner is too, as he sneaks in an Oksner Easter egg. And if we have to have the new look, I doubt anyone could translate it better into print – Shaner is one of the best artists in comics. And as he’s colouring his work here, we get the Full Shaner, a masterclass in grounding a superhero in a recognisable world. I especially like the lightning effects around and within Mary.

See, for example, Shaner’s sharp cover, which features some of the other people who worked on this issue, sort of. Such fun!

And that’s this mini-series all over which is, sadly, all over after next issue. I hope it’s selling decently because it’s been a huge treat amidst DC’s Worlds of Batman. If anyone knows the one magic word to get us so more, yell it!

18 thoughts on “The New Champion of Shazam #3 review

  1. What a great review and what a great book. I just love Mary in this. I know it’s a comic, but her blow up feels so real. I understand thinking you are going to be able to live your dream, and having to suddenly give it all up. So well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The art is great. I think the book turned a little too YA for me (message: young women need to get past their own negative self-talk, and learn to ignore the toxic men on social media trying to drag women down), and with Meghan Fitzmartin writing about toxic male fandom in her Young Justice “Dark Crisis tie-in that has nothing to do with Dark Crisis”, I’m probably over my limit for TV writers dabbling in comics. (Fitzmartin = Supernatural, Campbell = She-Ra and other shows.) Besides toxic males, Campbell goes into the homeless problem too (I mean the problem with the “unhoused”, which may be the latest word for it, and is the word Campbell uses).

    It’s kind of clunky – Dr. G. pretty much announces she’s a villain early on. Were we supposed to be surprised?

    I’d never heard of Uncle Marvel, but came across him for the first time in the Marvel Family #1 facsimile book I picked up a week ago. So I think I’m insufficiently nostalgic to fully enjoy this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, interesting, I didn’t assume all the trolls were male, just morons, but I see your logic. Josie Campbell is being a bit more subtle than Meghan Fitzmartin…the ‘her pronounce are’ bit brought the comic to a thudding stop.


  3. I have no interest in Mary Marvel outside of her connection to Captain Marvel. I have even less interest now that she’s not even his sister any longer. . .currently. Still, I’m a completist and I collect all things Marvel Family. The biggest criticism I have is that she written to be the generic young character, as if she’s new, when she has decades of history behind that could be tapped. Yes, she’s “new” since 52 (ha!), but when has that ever stopped a good writer from working in the greatest hits into the mix? Far as being the Champion of Shazam, she’s bringing up the rear after Freddie and Black Adam.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m hoping everyone gets their history back when Dark Lazarus Crisis Planet is over… but wasn’t that supposed to happen after Death Muddle, or Infinite Haemorrhoids or something? Ach, just bring back the original Marvel Family, there must be some Suspendium out there.


  4. The art here is good but some of the writing is clunky. Yep, there are horrible (or toxic if you are one of the millions of parrots) men out there but, c’mon, this is a girl with superpowers, wouldn’t there be as many men who were impressed as not? Women’s football has plenty of male supporters after all, there is something a little dim, rather unimaginative, verra predictable, about going to this well. So many writers today seem to approach things in *exactly* the same way. I’m a liberal but I’m heartily sick of quasi-liberals reading from the same hymnsheet just like right-wing ar*es, it leads to dullness (and in the real world – if one call it that – Stalinist-like behaviour. Little bitta politics there as Uncle Ben Elton used to say).
    In reference to TN’s comment above: “unhoused” rather than homeless? Jeez. Are people idiots? It means the same thing! – – Irrelevant exasperated rant ends – –

    Doesn’t Uncle Marv look good! Nice drawing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Unhoused folk’! I’d not even noticed that. Oh dear, it’s hideous and ridiculous at the same time. A euphemism that disguises the real problem, making it less likely to be addressed.

      Excellent point about women’s football having loads of supporters. I hate all football.


      1. “…hideous and ridiculous at the same time.” An apt description if ever there was one. In modern argot you’d probably have to write, I don’t know, “non-nice and unsensible”. (“BUT,” you would cry, “THE WORD INsensible ALREADY EXISTS; isn’t that new coining unnecessarily confusing and STYEWPID?!” At which point you get cancelled as if you had advocated the return of The Black and White Minstrels Show, or, worse, wanted to be in it… Up-to-date obscure reference there to a terrible insane programme I’m too young to have seen!).

        “I hate all football.” And so say all of us (well, me)/You and me both/I hear ya brudda! Not that I would disparage the taste of millions of people… Who am I kidding, of course I would (I mean, we’ve seen what millions of people are capable of in recent years. Oh, 1980s Ben Elton, stop possessing me!).


  5. I loved this issue! DC really needs an ongoing Shazam series.
    If I had my way, I’d want to see a Shazam family quarterly, a Legion quarterly, a Titans quarterly… and one more to fill out the year. Each of those properties have enough characters and histories to draw on that it should be easy enough to fill the pages.
    Not gonna happen cuz I’m not sure there’s a market for it. But I’d buy it. 🙂

    Having said all that, I’m quite satisfied with this series. I suspect you’re correct in your guess of who Dr. G will turn out to be.

    I’m also liking the mix of weird monsters and science fiction based baddies. That’s something that harkens back to the golden age of Shazam.

    As you’ve said, Doc Shaner’s art is perfect. Looking forward to one more wonderful issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, yes please to the quarterlies, Murray! I’d add a JLA/JSA quarterly, with room for characters who aren’t actually in either team but might be, folk we never see such as Yellow Peri, Maser, Firehawk…


      1. Oh my gosh!! Of course we need an Earth 2 quarterly! That would fit the bill perfectly.
        And I’d swap out Titans for plain old DCU characters that we never see anymore. The Firestorms, the Blue Devils, the Hawks or Elongated Man. Maybe with a JLA lead feature to pull in people.
        But again… sigh… we might be the only people that would but it.


  6. I absolutely love this mini-series, and I hope it is selling well too, because I would love this team to do another, or perhaps a maxi-series (I that term even used anymore?) to help flesh out this beautiful world being created here.

    I’ve always loved Mary Marvel.

    I agree with you about the skirt. I think maybe someone at DC or TW thinks this kind of skirt is less prone to attacks of “oversexualizing” because it has to be drawn a certain way and not be allowed to flutter about, but I miss that old look.

    I too am a bit miffed that Billy seems to always be sidetracked for some reason. I bet this creative team could do wonders with the Marvel Family, though I am hopeful that only Mary, Billy, and Freddy end up with powers.

    I’d also like to address something another commenter said. Mary is Billy’s sister. It may not be a blood relationship, but these kids are being raised by the same parents, and note Mary calls them her parents, not foster parents. They love each other like siblings, and it seems short-sighted to not think of her as his sister.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wonder how Mary would look with some Jamal Igle bike shorts?

      I really like that so far as Mary is concerned her foster family is her family. I expect that if this version of the characters sticks around a while Mary and Billy will be revealed as twins (that never made sense to me as in the Golden Age Mary Bromfield was drawn quite comics realistically, while Billy Batson was Annie in trousers – those eyes!). That shouldn’t change anything because, yeah, they’re all brothers and sisters.


      1. In her current outfit, Mary does wear what I’d call red bike shorts. Are they much different from what Igle drew for Supergirl?

        I liked this issue more on a second read-through.


  7. I am liking this series. The Doc Shaner art is just scrumptious, especially the visuals of Babel’s powers.

    I think we have the same theory of Dr. G …

    Shame only 4 issues of this.

    Liked by 1 person

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