The New Champion of Shazam #4 review

In which Mary Bromfield tracks down her missing parents and confront the mastermind who’s been sending super-powered strangers to attack her.

I’ve been enjoying this four-part mini-series as an overdue focus on the current DC Universe version of Mary Marvel. We’ve seen her go to college, become the sole beneficiary of the wizard Shazam’s powers and find a potential mentor in her teacher Dr G, who I suspected was a new version of Golden Age baddie Georgia Sivana, daughter of the despicable Dr Thaddeus Bodog Sivana. This issue we see Dr G in her work togs.

Hey, who knew? (Does victory dance…)

I have to say, Sivana is rather impressive in terms of her plan.

But she’s power mad and not all her guinea pigs are volunteers – she’s been abducting homeless people as test subjects and they tend to end up as, well, take a look.

Not all Sivana’s living weapons are unwilling, though – before finding Sivana, Mary is again set upon by the mad scientist’s enhanced goons.

Oh dear, super-incels. Safe to say, Mary makes short work of them,

Hey, it’s the Shazam Family emergency power move, not seen since, er, Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 a couple of weeks ago, OK, that time Black Adam was somehow able to share his power, but the lightning-as-weapon has been the go-to move far too often in recent years.

Anyway, after some entertaining origin and intentions talk, Sivana – having accepted that Mary isn’t likely to become her protege any time soon – powers up herself. Mary, though, isn’t having it.

The next page is a gorgeous visual from artist Evan ‘Doc’ Shaner, working in full colour, but Lordy, you have to work hard to get to it – Mary’s monologue is excruciating.

At this point, I realise I’m not the audience for this Mary Marvel book – actually, as of now we’re meant to call her ‘Shazam’, the same as missing brother Billy. Anyway, I’ve mostly enjoyed this series written by Josie Campbell a lot, it’s just a shame the big moment is so cringey. I’ve long since come to accept the present tense narration which replaced the perfect comic book device of thought balloons, that allows for a bit of florid prose – see that page with the Grotequeries, above; the narration hobbles the action sequence, but it’s not meant to be dialogue. Here, though, Mary is in full speechifying mode, with her ‘I am Shazam, hear my roar’ moment. No human being has ever spoken like that. Please God now Mary has asserted her superheroic identity she’ll just get on with being a heroine, let her actions speak for her.

The story we’ve been following ends but, being DC, there’s no bow wrapping things up neatly – our ‘champion of the lost and the left behind’ flies off into the Lazarus Planet event, after having a vision of someone who may or may not be Billy.

The art really is lovely, little moments such as Mary’s family sleeping on the couch at the end truly convince, the body language is perfect. Also, a certain bunny is back, and Shaner gives Mary such a serene strength that we could easily do without that over-earnest declaration lettered so nicely by Becca Carey.

Campbell and Shaner deserve plaudits for giving us a tight character piece, firmly putting Mary in place as the DCU’s main Shazammer. We get a fun new villain, a fresh setting and a modernised Uncle Marvel. Mary’s family of adoptive brothers and sister are downgraded from the last Shazam series to supporting player status, but they’re ready to step up as needed. The action scenes have worked and I really do like Georgia Sivana – really, the only misstep is Mary’s Big Moment, which seems tacked on to underline the series’ rather painful title… just call the book Shazam, and our heroine Mary Marvel inside. Shazam is the wizard, and a name she can’t use for herself unless she wants to transform, or shock a villain.

Now character, setting and tone are firmly established I’d be very interested to see a sequel mini-series from this creative team. With some magic sales, it could well happen.

11 thoughts on “The New Champion of Shazam #4 review

  1. I think I enjoyed this a smidge more than you.
    The impeccable art and the presence of a talking Hoppy may have nudged it up a grade.
    Shaner can do no wrong!
    It’s a shame this isn’t going on longer because I thought it was fun. But with the Waid/Mora Capt Marvel book coming out, I guess Mary’s reign as the new champion will be brief.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Mary is popping in Wonder Woman soon, so you’ll see her there, but yeah, it’s a shame… then again, why does one Shazam character her to be the senior hero? Can’t we go back to the Jerry Ordway days of Mary and Billy both going by Captain Marvel (I suppose it would be Shazam, so give them fake beards).

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  2. They seem to be able to say Shazam if thwie intent is not to change. Pulling the lightning down without lightning is apparently a different intent. All it would take is one balloon with someone confused and one ballon with the answer.

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  3. I found the “incel” sequences to be trite. Female heroes seem to attract the same sort of male villains: ones who are mostly upset that they have to fight a woman. It makes little sense, but I guess the target audience likes it? Best thing? Billy will be back in his role as the proper champion shortly. Making Mary champion only works if you make fit for the role. Just having it to her has little dramatic effect; Freddy had to do 12 labours and all to just get the full set of powers. There is a lost of undiscovered for Mary, but this series seems to be a paint-by-numbers story, and not one that wanted to develop Mary into a leading lady, a proper star.

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      1. Bahahahahahahaha! Couldn’t finish an issue of it. Howard Porter’s art has never ever worked for me so it was pretty much an automatic pass from me.

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  4. I enjoyed the series. Both for what it was and for what it was not. This was a simple little story with monsters and a Sivanna and a bunny that would have been completely at home in a Marvel Family or Mary Marvel book from the fifties. I’m totally cool with it.

    And I’m even cooler that it didn’t feature any kind of goth-girl s&m Mary (which seemed to be the default setting for her since at least Countdown) or any kind of cranky, bitter Mary (see the Young Justice cartoon).

    Is it going to set the world on fire? Probably not. But I enjoyed it. I’d read more from this creative team.

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      1. Honestly? I *love* that kinda stuff! Give me all the angsty tv teen dramas and I’ll watch it! I’m totally the target audience for all that (not that the CW knows that since they’re dumping all my favourite shows and replacing them with… golf? barf!)

        But yeah, her speech worked for me. I could totally hear the words in my head as she said them.

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      2. I agree that the dialogue there isn’t realistic in the least, but I lean more toward Murray’s side on the speech than yours, Mart. Not all speeches like this one work for me, but this one mostly did. Think of it as Mary conjuring herself out of thin air — Shazam isn’t the only word of power she’s invoking. It’s magic: You have to make your intentions clear.

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