22nd Jul2020

‘Shazam: Lightning Strikes #1’ Review (DC Digital)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Dan Jurgens | Art by Travis Moore | Published by DC Digital

Never really enjoyed the fact that the original Captain Marvel, the real Captain Marvel, can’t be called that due to Marvel’s use of the name for their characters. Don’t get me wrong, was (and am) a huge fan of Mar-Vell, Marvel’s male incarnation, but seems that a character like Billy Batson, who has been around since 1939, is due just a bit more respect. Captain Marvel was once upon a time the biggest selling character in comics, of course, ahead of Superman and Batman back in the day. Then Fawcett, his publisher, went under, and DC bought the rights but never really knew what to do with him. Books came and went from the Seventies onwards, with approaches ranging from humour to straight action, but it’s taken awhile for any ongoing popularity to stick. With the success of the recent movie though, Captain Marvel, or Shazam as I guess I’ll have to call him, is having a second wind.

Part of that second wind, to keep that ball of Shazam popularity rolling, is the comic I have (virtually of course) before me. Written by the great Dan Jurgens, and drawn by Travis Moore, this incarnation seems to be a melding of the traditional comic book version with elements from the film, which is pretty much the way all comic properties go these days when a film or show becomes really popular. ‘Home Quest’ sees a travelling Egyptian exhibition turn up at Billy Batson’s Fawcett High School, with some of the kids more impressed than others. As always, trouble kicks off when class bully Julian Esposito starts picking on Billy’s best friend Freddy Freeman, resulting in Billy accidentally smashing one of the exhibits. If only he had a friend who could help sort things out…

Enter Captain Marvel…grits teeth, er Shazam. Now this version of Cap transforms physically into an adult man, but keeps Billy’s mind, so let’s just say he’s a little bit more chilled out than most superheroes. He’s just there to teach Esposito a lesson. That care free approach, though, isn’t always a great idea, and Billy ends up releasing a long trapped Egyptian warrior, a Temple guardian. Or Ankh Man, as Freddy calls him, which I kind of like. The usual fisticuffs ensue, ending with the Egyptian out of time transporting them back to Egypt. Not sure how he can do all this, but hey, let’s not think too deeply. Julian Esposito, class bully extraordinaire has also been scooped up, which will help his street cred no end.

Just as the fighting is about to get going again, which I guess for Billy is fun if you can’t get hurt, Kaemqed suddenly realises the Temple of Hathor, which he has sworn to protect, is now old and rundown. He loses his resolve, and Billy realises the Goddess Hathor has appeared. She releases her guardian from his duty, allowing him to move on, explaining he had been trapped in the ankh for centuries until Shazam had accidentally released him. Some accidents have silver linings I guess. Time to get back home, and Julian Esposito can now say honestly he has helped as Shazam’s wing man, rather than make stuff up a la early Flash Thomson in Spider-Man.

This was ok for what it was, essentially an all-ages slice of fun with the character being made as recognisable as possible for any new fans brought in by the movie. Jurgens does a good job keeping it light and fun, skewing its appeal young, and Travis Moore’s art is lovely and expressive, clean lines and nice big panels making the story flow nicely. As with most of the DC Digital stuff, it’s a one and done story. For older fans like myself you do miss a little of the depth you normally get, because of the lesser page count and all ages targeting, but for this price point it’s a minor niggle.

(Captain) Marvel-ous.

**** 4/5

Shazam: Lightning Strikes #1 is available on Comixology now.

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