Writer: Josie Campbell
Art: Evan “Doc” Shaner
Letters: Becca Carey
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: January 17th, 2023
Mary Marvel continues carrying on the mantle of Shazam in The New Champion of Shazam! #4, which closes the mini-series with the resolution of Mary’s missing parents, as well as revealing the master villain who has been working in the shadows throughout the mini-series, wreaking havoc with Fawcett City and Mary herself.
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I’ve been enjoying the The New Champion of Shazam! so far. It’s felt like the perfect fusion of Silver Age stories and modern sensibilities. But The New Champion of Shazam! #4 finishes the mini-series with more of a whimper than a bang. The main problem with the book is that the conclusion is anti-climactic. When the main villain of the mini-series is revealed, it’s pretty predictable and it’s a person that has ties to one of Shazam’s rogues gallery. I think it would have been far more interesting had the villain been someone not associated with Shazam (like Lex Luthor), or a totally original new villain who has no ties to anyone in the Shazam family circle.
Once the villain is revealed, Mary dispatches them and their army of creatures surprisingly quickly (after the villain gives a monologue about what their goal is and who they are, of course). I suppose it makes Mary look very formidable, but I would have loved to see Mary get in a real desperate battle. It didn’t make sense to me that Mary would so easily dispatch the main villain and their army so easily here after having such a hard time battling Disaster Master in the first issue. That battle with Disaster Master was brutal and epic, it was beautiful and very cinematic, but the battle this issue seems more rushed and has a buzzkill akin to someone walking into a great party and yelling “Come on guys, let’s wrap this up, I have to get up early for work tomorrow!”.
Still, there are some interesting ideas here, with the villain tapping into The Rock of Eternity’s magic and fusing it with science to transform people into grotesque creatures for their army. It’s a twist on “The Island of Dr. Moreau” that I wish could have been explored further. Also, Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, smart-ass and teleporter extraordinaire, returns to lend an assist to Mary in the final battle (and snack on a few carrots too) after barely appearing in the last couple issues, and I always love seeing the little guy. The books ends on a hopeful and happy note, but has a cliffhanger ending that leads directly into an upcoming Lazarus Planet book.
Evan “Doc” Shaner’s art on The New Champion of Shazam! #4 is magnificent, capturing the Silver Age feel of Shazam. All the characters look natural, as if they were people you could run into on an average day. Mary is drawn very much like the girl next door, cute but not like a super model as many artists tend to draw every female in their books.
As Mary Marvel, Shaner maintains her cute features but makes her a bit more bulky. She’s a formidable presence, especially in a splash page near the end of the book, where Mary is holding up a huge piece of debris while assisting a person who has fallen nearby. It’s an iconic image that’s right up there with Superman lifting up the car on the cover of Action Comics #1 or Batman gloomily looking down on Gotham while perched on a gargoyle. I hope if Mary gets her own series that Shaner will at least draw the first few issues of it. His style is a great match for the character.
As much as I’ve always liked Billy Batson’s Shazam, I love Mary Marvel more, and despite a few stumbles this issue, I’ve really enjoyed The New Champion of Shazam! mini-series overall and I hope Mary continues as the flagship Shazam character for a long time.