Comics & CollectiblesComics ReviewsFeaturesReviews

DC Showcase: ‘The New Champion of Shazam!’ Comic Review

Share this:

The New Champion of Shazam! is a brand-new miniseries from Josie Campbell and Doc Shaner. Set in the main DC Universe, the four-issue comic features Mary Bromfield (Mary Marvel) assuming the mantle of Shazam. The historic series is Mary’s first solo comic since 1948, and the first time she has had the same hero name as Billy Batson since 1999.

The continuity of DC’s Marvel Family is a complicated history, even by comics standards. Mary Marvel was originally introduced in 1942 as Mary Bromfield, the long-lost twin sister of Billy Batson (“Captain Marvel”). These early stories were published by Fawcett Comics in the 1940s, but ceased publication after legal issues with DC Comics. Eventually DC licensed the rights, and the Marvel Family returned to publication in 1972 with DC Comics’ Shazam! #1.

After Crisis on Infinite Earths, Mary Marvel was rebooted in 1994’s Power of Shazam!. This was the first time Mary’s powers transformed her into an adult, and as a result, both Mary and Billy went by the name “Captain Marvel”. After Power of Shazam! ended, Mary was renamed “Mary Marvel” once again, and maintained the title until Flashpoint introduced another reboot in 2011.

In the new timeline, Mary and Billy are part of a foster family who all have superpowers, just like the Shazam! movies. Billy’s Captain Marvel was renamed “Shazam” and Mary became “Lady Shazam”. However, recent events have caused the whole Shazamily to lose their powers. With Billy stuck at the Rock of Eternity, their home is more vulnerable than ever, setting up the events of New Champion.

In the movies, Mary Bromfield is played by Grace Caroline Currey in Shazam! and Shazam! Fury of the Gods, and she will hopefully continue the role in the future. So let’s take a look at how The New Champion of Shazam! could inspire the Shazam! franchise in the new DCU!

Mary as Shazam in New Champion of Shazam! (DC Comics)
Mary as Shazam in New Champion of Shazam! (DC Comics)

The story and visual style of New Champion of Shazam!

New Champion of Shazam! picks up with the Shazamily dissolved: Billy Batson is gone and there needs to be a new champion of Shazam. But Mary is leaving for college and has other plans in mind. The plot is a bit predictable but the emotions are heightened by Mary’s very real struggles with identity and imposter syndrome. Mary wrestles with her place at her university, and even more so when she strives to be a hero Billy would be proud of. More than any villain, “Who am I?” and “Am I good enough?” are the main conflicts in New Champion.

Writer Josie Campbell blends the silliness of old-school Captain Marvel comics with a modern, intelligent, and heartfelt point of view. Mary is a science major, and her investigative skills and contemporary technology factor into the story in meaningful ways.

Campbell writes Mary as a three-dimensional woman grappling with anxiety, bravery, compassion, and the weight of too much responsibility. She’s awkward and thinks too much, but her relatable introspection is exactly what sets this series apart from normal Shazam! comics. Mary’s deeply personal journey to actualize her identity is why The New Champion of Shazam! is an essential addition to the Captain Marvel canon.

The book also introduces a promising update to the Shazams’ pantheon of all-star antagonists, along with fun Easter eggs from the Marvel Family’s long legacy in publishing. This is one of the first Shazam! comics in years that truly aligns with the spirit of the Captain’s original Fawcett comics, but in a way that represents a modern progression of the series.

A major part of the success of the book is artist Evan “Doc” Shaner, who does the pencils, inks, and colors for the series. Shaner’s iconic cartoonist approach uses simple, expressive lines to make all of his characters strong, humanized, and instantly lovable without ever being hypersexualized. His playful art style is perfectly in sync with Campbell’s dialogue and the personality of Becca Carey’s letters. The creatives’ close collaboration and shared vision make the book feel like it was written, drawn, and lettered by one connected hive mind, giving the series a stunning sense of cohesion.

new-champion-of-shazam-comics-review-mary-marvel-piece-of-trash-combined-1000-recolored
Mary confronts her insecurities in New Champion of Shazam! (DC Comics) (Composite image)

Adapting New Champion of Shazam! to screen

With its charm and modern-day complexities, adapting The New Champion of Shazam! would be a brilliant way to evolve the film franchise in the DCU. Given the character’s age in the films already, it would make sense for Grace Caroline Currey’s Mary to leave for college in the next movie. The plot could easily revolve around Mary’s journey to become an independent hero outside of her family in her new environment. The film could end with her assuming the Shazam mantle in addition to, or even in place of, Zachary Levi’s version of the character.

The current status quo in the DC Comics line demonstrates that the universe is big enough for two Shazams, and having Mary as the lead or co-lead would bring a fresh perspective to the third film in the series. Mary’s maturity presents a welcome contrast to Billy’s youthfulness, allowing the two heroes to retain their distinct flavors.

The New Champion of Shazam! proves that Mary Bromfield is interesting enough to hold her own series and strong enough to save the day by herself when needed.

 

Is New Champion of Shazam! friendly for new readers?

The New Champion of Shazam! is as new-reader friendly as it can be. Everything is completely understandable without needing any other comics, especially if you already know the characters from the 2019 Shazam! movie.

However, while New Champion can be enjoyed without any extra reading, the story might feel slightly incomplete. This is because the comic actually fills the gap between two other Shazam! series. If you’re interested in reading the full story, here’s the complete reading order:

  • Mary Marvel: The New Champion of Shazam! reading guide
    • Shazam! (2021) #1-4
    • Teen Titans Academy (2021) #4, 11
    • The New Champion of Shazam! (2022) #1-4
    • Lazarus Planet: We Once Were Gods (2023) #1 [D Story]
    • Wonder Woman (2016) #797-798 [B Stories]
    • Shazam! (2023) #1

The 2021 Shazam! and Teen Titans Academy comics aren’t that important for New Champion, and I think most new readers would be better off skipping them. We Once Were Gods and the Wonder Woman issues are particularly important because they feature short stories by Josie Campbell continuing Mary’s adventures as Shazam, picking up after the end of New Champion. And this May, fan favorites Mark Waid and Dan Mora will bring back Billy’s Shazam in the new 2023 series simply titled Shazam!.

If that all seems a bit complicated right now, don’t be scared! It’s all bonus material. Josie Campbell writes New Champion in a super friendly way that makes it easy for new fans to jump in and have a blast without any extra homework. Whatever you decide to do, enjoy reading!

For similar Shazam! comics, I also recommend The Multiversity: Thunderworld Adventures (2014) #1 by Grant Morrison & Cameron Stewart and Convergence: Shazam! (2015) #1-2 by Jeff Parker & Doc Shaner.

new-champion-of-shazam-comics-review-mary-marvel-exploring-identity-1000-recolored
Mary Bromfield in New Champion of Shazam! (DC Comics) (Composite image)

My verdict on New Champion of Shazam!

This series is so charming, fun, and emotionally engaging that the biggest problem was that it was too short! Josie Campbell & Doc Shaner are a perfect pairing for Mary Marvel, and this is one of the most exciting reinventions of Captain Marvel I’ve ever read. I desperately want Mary’s tenure as the Champion of Shazam to be long and historic because Campbell & Shaner truly set the foundation for something special to come.

These four issues are brimming with the potential to be a proper ongoing series, and I would be thrilled if the films took inspiration from Campbell’s work and let Grace Caroline Currey evolve into the new Shazam for the DCU.

New Champion might be only four issues, but this comic manages to set up a new future for the characters while being an impassioned love letter to the history of Captain Marvel. This is essential reading for any fan of Shazam, Mary Marvel, and the exciting potential for the future of these characters.


Have you read any Shazam! comics before? Are you excited for Fury of the Gods? Let me know on Twitter @vinwriteswords and remember to follow the site @MyCosmicCircus for more comics coverage coming soon!

Check out our full list of DC Showcases here, including our reviews of Wonder Woman Historia and All-Star Superman!

DC Showcase: Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons

dc-showcase-wonder-woman-historia-amazons-01

DC Showcase: All-Star Superman

dc-showcase-all-star-superman-03

Share this:

Vin

Reviews, reading guides, and crazy theories. Obsessed with the Midnight Sons. Find me on Twitter @vinwriteswords!

Vin has 134 posts and counting. See all posts by Vin