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I just want to start out by saying that opinion has been highly divided on Geoff Johns’ take of the Captain Marvel/Shazam mythos A character noted by many as being the personification of the Golden Age that the first back-up revealed a much more bitter personality for main character Billy Batson blindsided a sizable portion of the Big Red Cheese’s fandom. Even I felt put off by the direction taken by Johns and only continued reading out of sense of morbid curiosity.
As time moved on, however, Johns proved that he knew what he was doing and the back up truly grew into it’s own. It showcased more of Billy’s personality and revealed a boy who, while hardened by his experiences, had a good heart within. There was even the welcome addition of a solid supporting cast, some of which are standard (Mary and Freddy) but also the surprise involvement of the “Captain Thunder Kids” from Flashpoint, all of whom play off greatly. With all of these elements the Shazam back-up was turning into an interesting and enjoyable take on the character, finally culminating in Justice League #0 - the long-awaited origin of Shazam!
Geoff Johns certainly knows how to set the mood when the situation calls for it and this issue is no different. The opening pages serve to instill the same sense that one might feel if perusing through a book of forgotten lore out of some fantasy novel. What Johns again provides is another look into the mind of Billy Batson, showing more of the purity inside of the embittered teen, and giving reason to The Wizard’s choice of champion. Even after his fateful transformation there are scenes that reveal the potential Billy has to grow into the “pure soul” that can defeat the darkness of Black Adam. Growing not only as a character, but also as a person. Along with bringing on some heartwarming and humourous moments this is Johns proving that he is still in his prime.
The fantastic art of Gary Frank is only another feather in Justice League’s cap. While he may have been confined to only a few pages a month beforehand, he is finally given the free reign that he so justly deserves this month. Expressive, with great line work, and perhaps a hint of emotion it is always a pleasure to see his work and this is still the case - especially with the awesome new look for the Rock of Eternity. If I were to detract at all from this month’s Justice League it would be to say that some might find it lackluster given the long wait for the reintroduction of Captain Marvel/Shazam. While it serves as a fine origin it doesn’t feel as grand as some might be hoping.
The back-up feature (with competant art by Ethan Van Sciver) might offset that, however, this time around. Again featuring the mysterious Pandora it sows some deliciously ripe seeds for “Trinity War” that I can assure you people will be talking about for days.
Overall I say that if you’ve enjoyed what Geoff Johns has done so far with Captain Marvel, or Captain Marvel in general, the you should certainly check this out. It's a solid story and is shaping up to be an interesting alternate take on the classic character. If not, then you might be tempted by the back-up and what it means for the rest of the DC Universe.