A Return to Innocence in ‘Convergence – Shazam! #1’

The stakes are purposefully kept low in Convergence: Shazam! #1, which works as a highly entertaining reintroduction to Golden Age Captain Marvel.

One of the biggest draws to DC Comics’ Convergence event has been the return of pre-New 52 characters and storylines in many of the spin-off series. For instance, in Convergence: Batman And Robin #1, Jason Todd’s Red Hood reemerges from seemingly out of no where, and Convergence: Superman #1 finds Superman and Lois Lane rekindling their time-honored romance. But with Convergence: Shazam! #1 writer Jeff Parker and artist Evan “Doc” Shaner, fresh off their highly entertaining Flash Gordon run, resurrect comics’ Golden Age with a story more inline with a Hardy Boys’ mystery than the typical superhero slugfest.

Where Parker truly excels in his storytelling is how he seamlessly integrates in a bevy of classic Captain Marvel characters both good and bad including Billy Batson (Captain Marvel), Mary Batson (Mary Marvel), Freddy Freeman (Captain Marvel Jr.), Mary’s fraudulent uncle and team manager Uncle Dudley, WHIZ radio boss Sterling Morris, the walking talking tiger Tawky Tawny, giant radioactive robot Mister Atom, and Neanderthal weapons genius King Kull to name a few. However, these classic characters aren’t shoehorned in for the sake of nostalgia, and instead Parker uses them as both a way of establishing the old fashioned innocence of Fawcett City and to further a fun and youthful story that works with all the Convergence business mostly pushed to the background

Convergence Shazam #1 opens on a desperate Fawcett City. The city has been ripped from time and space and is being imprisoned under an impenetrable dome, Billy Batson’s power to transform into Captain Marvel is gone, and the dome will soon be opened leaving the city defenseless against any and all attackers. Parker crafts a clever exposition scene early on where Fawcett City citizens hold a public forum when it appears Captain Marvel has disappeared in their greatest time of need. Billy, with all the confidence of an experienced politician, sticks up for Captain Marvel. He reminds the people of how hard Captain Marvel, and Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel Jr. for that matter, fought to protect Fawcett City, and that Captain Marvel would be there to help if he could.

After Bulletman and Bulletgirl, who oddly still have their powers, briefly appear to save the public forum from certain disaster, Billy, Mary and Freddy witness Uncle Dudley and Sterling Morris acting suspiciously and follow them into an abandoned Subway station. Mary questions whether it’s a good idea to follow mysterious men underground, to which Billy quips, “Really? It’s always worked out pretty well for me.”

This leads to the issue’s climax, which boasts reveal after reveal of Captain Marvel baddies. But only the evil genius Dr. Sivana and the brutal, muscled up Ibac pose any real threat. Turns out Sivana and Ibac were posing as Uncle Dudley and Sterling Morris all along to infiltrate the Marvel clan. It looks grim as Sivana and Ibac attempt to take Billy prisoner, but Tawny emerges in the nick of time. The anthropomorphic tiger fights off Ibac long enough that the dome comes down, and Ibac shrinks back down to petty crook Stanley Printwhistle. Billy then wastes no time uttering the magic word, “Shazam,” and morphs into the world’s mightiest mortal, Captain Marvel. Mary and Freddy follow suit, and a massive brawl between all the heroes and villains erupts. Eventually, the fight breaks out of the underground and to the surface where giant zeppelins are firing on Fawcett City as the Convergance battle with Gotham City’s Gaslight Universe has already begun.

While Parker does a great job of marrying the fresh and the familiar with his story, Shaner’s art truly embodies Captain Marvel’s visual past. Shaner takes a lot of influence from the Captain Marvel’s early days in the 40’s and 50’s, which at times recalls the Sunday morning funny pages. But he also does a great job of integrating in dramatic colors and a vibrancy that embraces modern day techniques.

What makes Convergence: Shazam #1 such an enjoyable read is that it doesn’t really feel like it’s part of such an epic, multiverse-wide event. Instead, Parker and Shaner lower the stakes in order to craft a highly entertaining welcome back to the classic Fawcett Comics’ iteration of Captain Marvel.

RATING 7 / 10