Writer: Josie Campbell
Art: Evan “Doc” Shaner
Letters: Becca Carey
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: August 2nd, 2022
Mary Bromfield (AKA Mary Marvel) shines again in New Champion of Shazam #1, which finds Mary tearfully leaving her foster family to go off to college. And everything goes perfectly! Actually, it doesn’t, as we follow her awkward first days at university. But if you think this issue’s all about finding dorm rooms and juggling course schedules, be prepared to read one of the most satisfying, thrilling, and FUN Mary Marvel stories ever.
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I’ve rarely seen an issue of a comic more perfectly paced than New Champion of Shazam #1. Within its 27 pages, we get a great overview of Mary’s history, her first days at college, and a great battle with a powerful new villain. We even get Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, reworked here as a bunny that can cast limited magic spells. It’s like having a delicious four-course dinner and dessert that’s totally satisfying and filling, but you’re still craving more afterward.
Anyone who’s ever gone to college can sympathize with Mary here, as she’s introduced to her two new roommates, who she’s convinced are way cooler than she is. These awkward moments felt so real and genuine, even as Mary goes to hilarious lengths to “look cooler” to her roommates.
Her efforts are nearly annihilated by the introduction of Hoppy the bunny, who talks, but only she can hear him. Imagine being in the middle of a crowded room, holding a bunny and arguing with it, but no one else can hear the bunny. This version of Hoppy reminded me of a less cynical version of Brian from “Family Guy”, urging Mary to accept her destiny and arguing with her while occasionally going back to his natural bunny instincts (“You were supposed to give me carrots!”).
This interplay between Mary and Hoppy was so much fun and I hope writer Josie Campbell continues this dynamic in future issues. I like that she doesn’t make Hoppy’s personality super crass or cartoony. He’s just a mellow advisor there to keep Mary on the right track, cast a teleport spell when needed, and get lots of delicious carrots.
Mary is written perfectly here. She’s always been a favorite character of mine, but some of the things DC did to her in the past were almost unforgivable (<hint>When DeSaad possessed her and turned her evil<hint>). This version of Mary is wonderful. She’s an over-achiever with insecurity issues, who sees college as a new start for her, where she can be a whole new person. She wants to redefine herself but, as always, the word “Shazam” comes into her life again.
The villain introduced here looks like a combination of Dr. Sivana and a character from the “Mad Max” films. There’s a great battle between him and Mary at the climax of the issue, as Mary is reluctant to continue being a superhero. She wants a life away from being a Marvel, and her reluctance to be a hero (as well as a new threat in the shadows) will continue throughout the remaining issues of the mini-series, and I’ll definitely be along for the ride.
Few artists capture a Bronze Age feel better than Evan “Doc” Shaner, and his art in New Champion of Shazam #1 is no exception. Shaner draws Mary as “the girl next door”, giving her cute features and a timeless hairstyle. There’s a magnificent splash page where she utters the word “Shazam” and transforms, as her eyes glow and lightning sizzles around her with power. Shaner’s one of the few artists who has Mary Marvel not look like an Amazon while in her Shazam form. She still looks like a “girl next door” except in her Shazam form, she can toss around cars, and I like that.
Hoppy is drawn to look like a normal brown bunny. I appreciated that he didn’t draw Hoppy as an anthropomorphic creature, it’s just a bunny that can talk. But Shaner’s still talented enough that he can convey emotion in Hoppy’s features. The battle scenes are drawn like a big-budget IMAX film. You can practically feel the thud of heavy metal bouncing off fists and lightning crackling. There’s an epic feel to Mary’s transformation and these battle scenes.
New Champion of Shazam #1 delivers a fantastic premiere issue for a promising mini-series. It has a wonderful retro feel but gives a modern take on Mary and a new direction in life. New supporting characters are added and the issue ends with a great cliffhanger and hints at a new threat to come. Highly recommended.