Sunday, 8 August 2010

Superman/Shazam: First Thunder #1

And we're back. The latest event to take me away from blogging has been a trapped nerve in my shoulder, which made it almost impossible to lie down without heavy doses of medication, meaning no sleep for a couple of days. Thankfully it appears it has become untrapped and I have recovered my mental state from 'zombie' all the way back to 'normal, if a little geeky'. Later on tonight I'll be joining the crew from Amazing Spider-Man Classics for another shot at recording our episodes. If all goes well then the first should be up by the end of the week. Anyway, enough distraction... shall we take a look at some comics?

First Thunder Chapter 1: A Face In The Crowd!

Writer: Judd Winick
Artist: Joshua Middleton
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Associate Editor: Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Artist: Joshua Middleton
Cover Date: November 2005
Release Date: 08/09/2005

The wizard Shazam observes the emergence of super-heroes into the world, and decides that the time has come for him to have a champion again. Captain Marvel makes his first appearance to the world, saving the an aeroplane from crashing into the center of Fawcett City. As Shazam watches, he decress that Marvel is locked in a battle with fate.

Three months later. Superman apprehends a gang of crooks who are breaking into the Metropolis Museum of Natural History and are attempting to steal a 1000 year-old golden statue. To cover their escape, the crooks produce staves which they strike onto the floor, summoning a giant mystical beast who attacks Superman. Superman engages the monster, but after a few seconds of fighting the beast vanishes in a puff of smoke. He spies a coin on the floor, and realises that magic was involved.

The next day, two giant robots attack the Fawcett City Solar Center contruction site. Captain Marvel engages and defeats them after a short battle. In the aftermath, Marvel agrees to leave the robots in the care of Dr Bruce Gordon, the chief scientific advisor of the project. Marvel then takes off. Later that night, Billy Batson returns to his makeshift home in an abandoned subway station. He and his best friend, Scott Cooper, who also knows his secret, discuss Captain Marvel's popularity in Fawcett City. Scott wants Billy to come back to the foster home with him, but Billy doesn't want to be part of the system, happy to sleep rough with the other homeless people.

Doctor Sivana, frustrated by his failed attempts to kill Captain Marvel and his failure to obstruct the Solar Center project, decides to contact Lex Luthor to exchange ideas on killing caped superheroes.

Later still, Billy is scoping out the Mckeon History Museum when he sees a gang breaking and entering. Changing into Captain Marvel, he confronts the gang, who had previously robbed the Metropolis museum. They employ the same tactics, summoning two mystical beasts to cover their escape. The beasts throw Captain Marvel out of the museum into the street. Looking up, he sees Superman, who offers his assistance.

In 2005, Judd Winick launched two projects to highlight not only Captain Marvel but also his relationship with Superman. The first, Lightning Strike Twice, was a three-issue crossover that ran through the Superman titles coverdated June. This was a prequel to Day of Vengeance, itself a prelude to Infinite Crisis. A few months later came this four-part mini-series depicting the first meeting between the two heroes.

This is a perfectly serviceable first issue to the series. It's solid without being spectacular, but is also a surprisingly brisk read. There's very little dialogue in this issue, and this results in Captain Marvel and especially Superman coming across as ciphers, there to wear their uniforms and do some fighting without displaying any character of their own. The two pages of Doctor Sivana work a lot better, as we get an interesting portrayal of the character as well as a nice setup for his role in the rest of the series. I really like the idea that Sivana - pre-mad scientist, and Fawcett City's version of Lex Luthor - would swap notes on cape-killing with Luthor. It's only a little bit crazy, and in the long run makes Superman's inclusion in the story better setup than we get here. I also like the fact that we get a homeless Billy Batson, an element of the character

There are a few slippages in the issue. Some of Captain Marvel's dialogue just seems wrong. The Captain Marvel I know (admittedly I don't know very much, mostly from the pages of JSA) wouldn't yell 'Hey! Iron butt!' at a robot, and such a saying seems out of character for someone blessed with the wisdom of Solomon. Joshua Middleton's art, whilst pretty good throughout the issue, falls down in one close-up of Superman's face that ages him by about twenty years. It's a shame that these little moments occur, as they detract from the comic.

The Geeky Bits: Right, a short history of Captain Marvel in one paragraph. Created in 1940, became the best-selling super-hero of the 1940s and the first comic character to have a live-action adaptation. Publishing ceased in 1953 when DC sued Fawcett Publishing for trademark infringement. Twenty years later, DC bought Fawcett and started publishing Captain Marvel, although Marvel had trademarked their own Captain Marvel in the meantime, so the book had to be called Shazam!. Captain Marvel had a rough ride out of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and it wasn't until Jerry Ordway created The Power of Shazam! in 1994 that a permanent ongoing series featuring the character was established. This series ran for five years, and after its conculsion, Marvel joined the JSA until Infinite Crisis came along.

Next on World of Superman: Superman and Captain Marvel do more than say 'hello' in their first ever team-up.


  1. Michael Bradley (omike015)9 August 2010 at 03:24

    I did not care for this entire series, from the art to the coloring, to the poor dialogue, to the questionable continuity, to the [SPOILER scene at the end of the third issue that I won't detail], and so on.

    I don't envy you having to re-read it. ;p

    Looking forward to new episodes of AS-MC, by the way. It's been a while. Hopefully the recording will go smoothly this time.

  2. It's too early to reveal my thoughts on the series as a whole, but I will tease with the following thought:

    I don't react to this in the way I normally react to a Judd Winick comic.

  3. The art sucked. The story was weak,though it had potential for something better. The people were one dimensional. I am a Captain Marvel fan.

  4. If Marv Wolfman took the story, he could make it far better, and the art would have been better. It is important to have a good story in which to hang the art to, yet how many comics have we read where we had to sacrifice a good story over great art, and vice versa. Many Batman, Superman, Wolverine, Spiderman and the big sellers ended up making readers choose between one or the other. I understand it was more water color/wash with ink over, but this isn't some Mobius peice, this is something you want to make $2.95 over and then have make a good collection price.