In the several decades since he first appeared, Captain Marvel has gone thought a lot of changes. Even his name has varied, as the World’s Mightiest Mortal has also been known as Shazam in recent years, partially due to legal complications with rival Marvel Comics and their own many versions of a character of the same name. He’s even changed companies, starting off at Fawcett Comics before they were sued into bankruptcy and Cap was acquired by DC Comics.
While there are some similarities, there are also a lot of differences between Captain Marvel and Superman. Captain Marvel, especially in his early stories, had both an innocence (possibly because his alter ego is, in fact, a kid) and often an absurdist note. Many of the early concepts about Captain Marvel have finally been brought back in his current series. As part of the “Dawn of DC” in the wake of the major Dark Crisis event, Shazam! has his own book again and it’s very true to the original stories.
The first issue opens with a goofy little side adventure and, for those who don’t know, a quick recap of who Captain Marvel is, how he got his powers, and what they are. They also, maybe as a note to the historic, decades-old feud, point out several differences between Cap and Superman. The current big event in DC is Lazarus Planet, which is messing with magic across the planet, and has helped bring Cap back to being the sole wielder of the power of the wizard Shazam. We also see a modern spin on the original concept of Billy being a radio news reporter, being located in Fawcett City, and they bring back the Rock of Eternity and even Talky Tawny, the tiger man with a penchant for suits. He’s also being called “the Captain,” which doesn’t exactly restore his original Captain Marvel name, but is a good step in the right direction. For those who like the more recent additions to his mythos, the six kids and the foster home are also in the story, or at least mentioned.
It’s not all rehashing old stuff. There’s possibly the best explanation I’ve ever heard as to why Billy changes back to his kid form, giving up the incredibly powerful adult body of his heroic identity. Shadowy figures lurk in the background, clearly about to cause problems for our hero. And the ending is a surprise that Billy himself can’t figure out, and I’m sure we’ll see more on later. All in all, I think it’s a great start to a new chapter in the history of Captain Marvel (he had the name first, I get to keep using it).
What I Liked: Mark Waid and Dan Mora have clearly done their homework, and their respect for the character and his history are clear. I appreciate the nods to the original version of the character. I never liked his more recent “Shazam!” reboot, stemming from the New 52, which I also never liked. I love their idea as to why Billy changes back and forth, rather than remaining super all the time. The silly fun in the first few pages was enjoyable, and really helps set Cap apart from the many other caped heroes.
What I Didn’t: While their take on Fawcett City was a nice compromise, I still don’t love the idea of Captain Marvel and company being in Philadelphia. Plus, there were a lot of other Fawcett heroes that, while they’ve largely been ignored by DC, I don’t see all of them being in this version of Fawcett. I wasn’t wild about all six kids having the power, I do feel a bit bad for Freddy not being able to change into Captain Marvel, Jr.
Captain Marvel has long been a favorite character of mine, and this book felt more like him to me than he has in years. I’m giving this a high 4 out of 5, and recommending the book to anyone that remembers the Big Red Cheese, as opposed to the kid who used his powers to illegally buy beer.