Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #1

Review by KC Carlson

Despite having a title that sounds like a 1970s Doug Henning TV special, Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! (let’s just call it Shazam!, shall we?) is actually a cute little book.

Billy Batson Shazam! #1 cover

Written, drawn, colored, stapled and printed by Mike Kunkel, the singular force behind the robust and heartwarming Herobear and the Kid of a couple years back, this version of Shazam! looks like just the thing to wash away the painful attempts to update the Captain and company over the last couple of years (especially Mary… poor, poor Mary…). Why no one thought of doing Shazam! as a kid’s book before just boggles my little mind.

Following up on Jeff Smith’s successful relaunch of the characters (kinda), Kunkel has given everybody makeovers in his extremely effective animation-like style (and I applaud the removal of some of the distracting construction lines that previously appeared in his work). Kunkel obviously realized the humor in the dynamics of size as Billy Batson is drawn as a mostly normal kid, dwarfed by the cartoonishly huge Captain Marvel. But the coup de grace is the re-imagining of Mary Marvel as a hyperkinetic 7-year-old girl who flits around like Tinkerbell to Cap’s Peter Pan. Brilliantly, Kunkel avoids making Mary a female copy of Cap by giving her more superspeed than he has — and of course she lords it over him as little sisters are wont to do. I suspect that Mary’s actually a little smarter than Billy as well, despite that “wisdom of Solomon” thing. But Billy definitely got the power and strength in the family, as he demonstrates throughout the issue.

In this first issue, Cap and Mary solve the problem of a circus train and a too-small tunnel, Billy pretends to be his own father at a parent-teacher conference, he checks in with his job at WHIZ as a TV talk show host, and Billy gets lectured by Shazam. Plus, there’s this sinister looking kid named Theo wandering around with partial amnesia (he can’t seem to remember his magic word. Hmmm…), who looks like big trouble for Billy in the very near future! Better check back next issue! I know I will!

The first issue rocks, and it looks like Kunkel is truly excited to be doing it. There are all kinds of fun bits in the story and artwork, and I am blown away by the coloring, which looks like it was done in crayon and watercolors! Here’s hoping he can maintain this enthusiasm and excitement every month! Shazam! is a fantastic addition to the high-quality Johnny DC line of comics for kids of all ages.

8 Responses to “Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #1”

  1. Good Comics for Kids » Linkfest: SDCC and more Says:

    […] Draper Carlson enjoys Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #1 at Comics Worth Reading. She also takes a look at a teen-frienly manga, vol. 1 of Apothecarius […]

  2. John Says:

    Yeah, this is my favorite comic I’ve read in years. Totally fun and very funny and pretty damn smart.

  3. odessa steps magazine Says:

    My only “complaint” is that young Black Adam reminded me too much of Kid Miracleman. And we don’t want young Theo to turn out like THAT. :>

  4. James Schee Says:

    This sounds pretty fun. I just read the collection of Smith’s stories a few weeks ago, thank you inter-library loan, and it was the first time I’d really *gotten* the Shazam family.

    I was hoping someone would pick up from that, this sounds like it has possibilities.

  5. Tim O'Shea Says:

    20 pop culture points for referencing Doug “With Magic You Can Do Anything!” Henning. Loved the first issue and my nine-year-old son had fun pointing out where various Kunkel creations popped up in the background.

  6. mdtk Says:

    I loved the first issue; this book is a winner.

  7. Kidsafe: Billy Batson and teh Magic of Shazam #1 « Comics Teacher Says:

    […] clipped from […]

  8. What’s Up With Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam? » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! debuted in July 2008 as a new all-ages series for DC Comics by Mike Kunkel. Kunkel previously self-published Herobear and the Kid, a series known for three things: […]




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