The New Champion of Shazam! #1 Review: A Lovely, Long-Overdue Solo Showcase

Nothing in the DC universe has prospered quite like the Shazam! family, with the ragtag adopted family charming fans for generations. Even then, the track record of Shazam! comics has been a peculiar one, with even the best-constructed stories causing a lot of genuinely good potential to fall through the cracks. This has especially been the case for Mary Marvel, whose role as the headstrong older sister of the family has been toyed with and sometimes exploited to fit a larger (and usually male-dominated) story. When you take all of that into account—and honestly, even when you don't—the beginning of Mary's new solo adventure in this week's The New Champion of Shazam! #1 feels like an absolute breath of fresh air. The New Champion of Shazam! #1 is a brilliantly-constructed, long-overdue thrill ride for its titular protagonist, which is brought to life by one of the most inspired creative teams DC Comics has hired in recent memory.

The New Champion of Shazam! #1 follows Mary at a daunting turning point in her life, moving several hours away from her family to attend college at Vassar. As Mary tries to create a new chapter in her complex story as a young woman and a part-time crime-fighter—and deal with the usual awkwardness of being a college freshman—a surprising sequence of events not only pulls her back into being a superhero, but leaves her more powerful than ever.

From the jump, The New Champion of Shazam! doesn't skimp on the staples of a Shazam! book, including but not limited to an earnest disposition, creative fight scenes, and unironic charm. But what makes the book instantly stand out is its more refined take on a coming-of-age story, by virtue of following Mary in her early days at college. The Shazam! family books have functioned as wish fulfillment for young readers for decades, imagining a life where the everyday perils of childhood are turned fantastical, and Mary's story manages to operate in a similar way. Younger fans will find her journey into college monumental, while older readers will recognize the charming and imperfect quirks of that specific milestone. Right out of the gate, this might be the most refreshing and entertaining exploration of a DC heroine in college since the excellent The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl run in the 1980s, which is one of the highest compliments I can give it.

Along the way, that recognizable feeling of starting out in college provides the perfect foundation to explore Mary's own emotional core, something that has only been able to shine here and there throughout the years. Through Josie Campbell's script, it becomes abundantly clear that Mary has a unique relationship with her adopted family, and the sense of responsibility they have all felt to carry on as superheroes. But by taking Billy out of the equation, and regulating the rest of the Shazam! family to a handful of heart-wrenching but effective panels, we get to see those feelings really thrive squarely through Mary's point of view. That kind of storytelling has obviously been filled with potential ever since Mary debuted, but it's downright revolutionary to see it in action, and it creates a heroine who is complex, but instantly lovable.

The warm fuzzies readers will feel reading The New Champion of Shazam! grow tenfold thanks to Doc Shaner's art, which is legitimately flawless throughout the entire issue. An entire master class could be constructed around Shaner's facial expressions and panel compositions in this issue, both of which flourish in ways that are awe-inspiring to witness. Even the most mundane panel is overflowing with personality, with Shaner's line work grounding it all in a sense of verisimilitude that Shazam! family books sometimes lack. Shaner's color work is also simply stellar, with strategic uses of warm colors that are downright dreamy. Becca Carey's lettering ties the proceedings together perfectly, perfectly conveying the charisma that Mary often embodies in the comics.

The New Champion of Shazam! #1 isn't just one of the best Shazam! family stories that DC has published in a long while – it's easily one of the best books in DC's main continuity in 2022. This week's debut issue is truly effortless in its concept and execution, giving Mary Marvel a new chance to shine that feels long overdue, but still profoundly satisfying and surprising. Every single component, from Josie Campbell's clever script to Doc Shaner's stellar art and colors, is overflowing with charisma without ever veering towards pretentiousness. If you've followed the Shazam! family for decades, or if you've never picked up one of their books before, you'll undoubtedly find something to love in this issue.

Published by DC Comics

On August 3, 2022

Written by Josie Campbell

Art by Doc Shaner

Colors by Doc Shaner

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Letters by Becca Carey

Cover by Doc Shaner