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Superman/Shazam: First Thunder #1

Superman/Shazam: First Thunder #1

Scheduled to arrive in stores: September 8, 2005

Cover date: November 2005

Writer: Judd Winick
Penciller: Joshua Middleton
Inker: Joshua Middleton

"A Face in the Crowd"

Reviewed by: Barry Freiman

Click to enlarge

The ancient wizard Shazam sits in his throne room on the Rock of Eternity considering the advent of the new age of heroes. Superman and Batman have already begun their careers. Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern have not. And, in Fawcett City, there's a new hero too.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood in Fawcett City - that is, until a small plane loses control and begins a sudden smoky descent into the middle of downtown Fawcett. Just as all seems lost, Shazam's newest champion, Captain Marvel, grabs the plane, saving the populace and pilot from certain doom.

The night before, at the Metropolis Museum of Natural History, a group of religious fanatics is stealing an ancient totem when they're interrupted by Superman. Big Blue reasons that these bad guys must be the same bad guys that have robbed six other museums across the U.S. All of the stolen artifacts have been of European origin.

Three of the bad guys pull out an enchanted staff and suddenly a hulking monster magically appears. Superman fights the monster and gains an advantage by firing a blast of heat vision that disorients the creature. With one punch, the magical creature dissipates into a cloud of blue-black smoke. Superman picks up a coin and realizes he's been dealing with magic.

Later, back in Fawcett City, Captain Marvel is facing off against two iron giant robots that have set their sights on the Fawcett City Solar Center construction site. Captain Marvel eventually defeats the mechanical behemoths.

Dr. Bruce Gordon thanks Captain Marvel for saving the Solar Center. Gordon asks if he can keep the wreckage in order to find some answers as to what the robots were intending to do. Cap lets him keep it provided it's OK with the authorities.

At night, Captain Marvel has returned to his secret identity of homeless waif Billy Batson. Billy's talking with his best friend Scott Cooper who knows that Billy is Captain Marvel. Scott urges Billy to come stay with his family, but Billy refuses, fearful he'll end up in another foster home.

Meanwhile, at the offices of Sivana Industries, Dr. Thaddeus Sivana complains to his Vice President of General Operations about Captain Marvel. Sivana released the giant robots to ruin the Solar Center, which Sivana Industries only funded as a tax shelter. Sivana expected his investment to generate losses and Bruce Gordon has instead discovered a means of powering Fawcett without fossil fuels. The Solar Center is going to cost billions of dollars to Sivana Industries. Sivana decides to contact Lex Luthor, a fellow business person that he hates, to confer with him on how best to deal with caped interlopers.

On a hunch, Billy Batson discovers robbers at the McKeon History Museum. With one magic word, he transforms into Captain Marvel.

The bad guys are there to steal the "Sabbaccian Channeling Idol". As in Metropolis, they use magic to summon creatures to distract Captain Marvel. With one magic punch, Captain Marvel is tossed out of the museum. From above, an offer of help is proffered - it's Superman.

2Story - 2: When I read "Lightning Strikes Twice" several months ago in the regular Superman titles, I remember being disappointed that, in a three-part story that promised to be a Superman/Captain Marvel team-up, Big Blue and the Big Red Cheese didn't even meet until the end of the second issue. The story itself was interesting but, as I find with much of what Judd Winick has written for DC over the past few years, he takes what should be simple concepts and over-complicates them in an attempt to be hip and clever.

A good example is the recent arc he wrote in his regular title, Green Arrow. There, he introduced a really interesting concept - take Batman's Riddler, a character who often has taken a ribbing in Batman's world, and bring him into Green Arrow's city. The simplicity of that match-up between GA and Riddler was, in and of itself, inspired and could have gone on for months. Except the really cool story about Riddler having a nuclear bomb is suddenly interrupted by giant monsters. The Riddler idea was a great one - the monster idea, it turned out, a fair one. Separately, they'd have each made good stories. Together, they made a mish-mash. To me, that characterizes so much of Judd's work at DC. The problem this time out is that I'd have loved to have read the first issue of the Superman/Shazam team-up. This wasn't it. This was more like issue #0 of the series - a prequel to the prequel. Finally, on the last page, heroes meet. Had the title of this book been something like "You'll Never Guess Which Heroes Meet and Eventually Team Up in this Series #1", I'd have had no problem with this issue's cliffhanger but, given the actual title of the book, I expected to see Superman and Shazam TOGETHER for more than one panel.

Did we really need the wizard Shazam bringing us up to speed on the state of the DCU at the time this series starts? A small caption with one, maybe two, sentences could have summed it up. Heck, a Daily Planet headline could have made it clear. What makes this even more frustrating is it seems to perpetuate the post-Crisis notion that Batman came before Superman and introduces a contradiction with 1987's "Legends" series that seemed to indicate that Captain Marvel entered the super-hero biz later in the game. Of course, had the Superman creative teams not decimated any sense of continuity over the past few years, the simplest solution would have been a caption reading "This story takes place shortly after the events of John Byrne's "Man of Steel"" - or "This story takes place around issue 3 of "Superman: Birthright". If we readers knew which origin still mattered going forward, our lives would be so much easier...

2Art - 2: Captain Marvel and Superman live in brighter, happier worlds than those depicted here. Making them the only primary colors in their respectively drab home cities doesn't work in Metropolis or Fawcett City. These are happy heroes who live in happy cities - well at least cities brighter than Batman's hometown.

3Cover Art - 3: Middleton's art just seems better suited to this cover than the 32 pages of artwork that follow. The cover has almost a Gil Kane quality to it (Kane was a prolific comic artist with notable runs on Green Lantern, The Sword of the Atom, and, yup, even Superman). The downside: the odd choice of plain white fonts for the book title and caption.

Mild Mannered Reviews


Note: Month dates are from the issue covers, not the actual date when the comic went on sale.

January 2005

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