Tuesday, April 11, 2023

COMIC REVIEW - The Power Of Shazam (DC, 1994 Graphic Novel)

Written and Illustrated by Jerry Ordway

To the best of my recollection, this is the only Shazam I've read that features the closest thing to what can be considered the original take on the Captain Marvel character. I may have read a few issues of the subsequent series that resulted from the success of this series, but my only exposure to the Marvel family would've been guest spots in other comic books and maybe that one cartoon from the days when a cartoon based on a comic book was about as much of the norm as a superhero film would be today.

For all intents and purposes, The Power Of Shazam is the then-modern day origin story of how young Billy Batson was chosen by the wizard Shazam to become the mighty hero Captain Marvel. Those who are only familiar with the modern-day version with the whole family thing will find this to be a much different. This is the story of Billy Batson trying to find his place in the world... all the while having to deal with a new power set given to him by an ancient wizard while also dealing with a villain with ties to the wizard and Billy as well.

A reviewer by the name of Tom Knapp had compared The Power Of Shazam to one of those old-timey Saturday Morning serials from the 1930s and that's a viewpoint I would agree with wholeheartedly. Not just in terms of imagining the world of Fawcett City as a typical metropolis (no pun intended) of the 1930s, complete with all the visual stylings, dressings, and lingo of the day - only way you could have taken this over the top was to print the story in black and white - but also in terms of its wholesomeness. Despite being written during contemporary times, this is a story where the line between heroes and villains are clearly defined, there's no mixed message to be found here, and there's an ending to a story that may lead to other stories, but is nonetheless an ending to this story.

There's no question that Jerry Ordway put together a compelling piece of work that pays homage and tribute to the character and his lore. While it is clearly a sampler of things to come, it also serves very nicely as its own piece of work. Ordway also puts in time with the painted interior art, which is exceptional stuff, indeed.

The Power Of Shazam is an excellent read indeed and for whatever it's worth, it's one of the strongest Shazam stories ever conceived. If you're going to read just one of these things, make it this one.

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