Needless to say, the Fawcett characters have been treated like complete crap for decades, since DC recognized a profitable threat to their flagship character, Superman, and ruined any chance Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family would have had to compete with him. Following Fawcett Comics shutting down its publications in the Fifties, years later, DC would acquire the publication rights to one of its most successful competitive characters.
Since then, Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family have been "revitalized" several times, failing most of the time either in concept or in sales. Ordway's Power of Shazam series was the highest point of these attempts, and it was still shakey. And since then, Winick's tried his hand at giving the franchise new life in Trials of Shazam, which has been a critical and financial strike out.
Luckily, someone out there who didn't have their head in their ass thought it would be a great idea to give Jeff Smith the opportunity to write and draw his own Captain Marvel story. Free of continuity, in four-issue prestige-mini format, Jeff Smith's just finished his book Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil. And it was !@#$in' perfect.
He begins by introducing us to Billy Batson, a homeless orphan surviving life on the streets with the help of his companion Talky Tawny, a wirey, old, sagacious vagrant. Smith plays the family angle with several of the characters in the book as Billy builds his own from the supporting cast, and it's that longing for family that leads to the him finding the wizard Shazam as he follows what appears to be his father into an abandoned subway terminal, where a magic train takes him to the Rock of Eternity. Here, the wizard gives Billy the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. Billy becomes Captain Marvel.
After this wholly classic adolescent escapist fantasy origin, the book takes several interesting turns. Smith explores the metaphysical context of eternity as Billy climbs the Rock and creates the conflict of the series, he hits on the intrinsic connection to family after Billy learns about his estranged kid sister, and he comments on the evil in humanity when he has Dr. Sivana replace his mad scientist image with that of Attorney General of the United States.
It was filled with as much whimsical, fun storytelling as it was laced with more mature subject material, so that anyone of any age could enjoy this book thoroughly. And the art was gorgeous. Dynamic action scenes, fluid storytelling, emotional body language. It's amazing when you can pick up a book and read the art itself without the need for dialogue, and it doesn't happen nearly often enough in superhero comics these days. Easily the greatest book DC's produced in years.
I'm sure most of you have checked it out by now. What're your thoughts about Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil?