There is no lust in Billy's fantasies.

*Not only is posting light this weekend, but the whole ‘early post Saturday, late post Sunday’ deal makes me feel I actually skipped a day. Which maybe I did if you add the hours up. We’re not big on blogging formalism on this site, folks.

*Breaking News Dept: While I was checking my items out at the grocery store today, a long-haired man walked in wearing violet pants, a black overcoat, and no shirt. He was looking at pastries when I left.

*So, given Newsarama’s preview of DC’s May solicitations, who wants to bet that Grant Morrison named Batman’s son-person Damian for the sole purpose of having him face off with “the Prince of Darkness” in Batman #666, an alternate(?) future story titled Numbers of the Beast? I guess you can’t use 616 without everyone thinking it’s a jab at Marvel...

Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil #1 (of 4)

So I read the new book, and it was pretty neat. Emphasis on the pretty, both in the sense that it’s visually fine and it honestly didn’t hold my attention for all that long. It’ll make an excellent political accessory for those itching to debate current superhero aesthetics online. Jeff Smith’s writing still seems a bit stuck in the semi-stilted fantasy declarative style of later Bone, especially in the early, ‘threatening’ pages (“‘Cause I’m gonna teach you… FEAR!”) - I really hope he introduces some Smiley-style dialogue humor into future issues as the fantasy elements ramp up.

Like I said, though - attractive. Excellent lettering, presumably by Smith himself; there’s no individual lettering credit, so I presume it’s (rightfully!) considered inseparable from the art. Good, meat-and-potatoes character designs. The visual storytelling is very clean, with plenty of trust put in judicious beats of wordless reaction; one particular panel of little Billy Batson taking off his shoes before entering the Wizard Shazam’s cave says more than any of Smith’s dialogue possibly could, and the artist is confident enough to rely on it. There’s some good visual comedy too, like Billy’s mind getting blown by the concept of Magical Paradox - really, everything that’s heavy on Smith’s art emerges perfectly ok.

The real success, though, lies in Smith’s pacing. As soon as Billy’s aboard the archetypical fantastic vehicle that whisks him away from reality to the world of Magic, the book adopts the drifty, bouncing pace of a child’s daydream, and Smith absolutely nails a fitting mix of illogic, frolic, wish-fulfillment, and sudden anxiety. Captain Marvel is as good a vehicle for this sort of thing as anything currently active at DC. Unlike some books -- All Star Superman, for example -- this really doesn’t exist at all as an adult’s appreciation of favored, arguably childish genre pinpoints and highlights; rather, it actually engages with the established character on the plane of childhood, with its pleasures surfaced and direct, light as a feather and wholly fleeting.

But that’s as much a potential liability as anything else. Reading through this book, I could all but feel its presence dissolving in my mind on contact. No, it has no pretension toward offering anything but bright and breezy fun, but all that really did was throw into sharper relief why I like the considered faux-childhood of things like All Star Superman a bit more. As far as all-ages books go, this one just isn't as 'all' as many others - it'd be great for kids, but... well, this adult was still hungry after having finished, let's just say, even considering the limitations of what's clearly meant to operate as the first quarter of a larger work.

It's not a question of price; this is a no-ads 48-page book, which places it at just over twice the content of two regular superhero comics for, er, the price of two regular superhero comics. Not a stunning deal, but perfectly fair. No, this is more a case of the subtle gradations between different types of good comics, at least as they exist in my preferences. Those readers closer to the source material, or more receptive to this sort of thing will feel differently - that's for certain with as sturdy an issue as this.

But me? Cute. Looks fine. Admirable. There it is.

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