Thursday, March 13, 2008


Jeff Smith
COLORS: Steve Hamaker
GENRE: Superhero

FORMAT: Oversized Hardcover
PAGES: 240
COLOR: Full color
ISBN 10: 1-4012-1466-5
ISBN: 13: 978-1-4012-1466-1

Billy is a little boy who is lost in a great big world. He is on his own living in an abandoned apartment and doing the best he can to get by. His only friend is an older, homeless man. One night, while Billy eats dinner with the old man around a barrel full of flame, he sees a man who resembles his father. Billy follows the man into the subway and onto a strangely colored red and yellow subway train.

Billy soon finds himself in front of the old wizard who gives Billy his powers. At the utterance of the magic words – “SHAZAM” – young Billy is quickly turned into the ripped, adult superhero known as Captain Marvel!

In no time at all, Billy learns a valuable lesson about listening to grown ups especially wise old sages, as he disregards the warnings and goes where it is forbidden. His presence at the top of the magic mountain releases demons and such the world has never seen. Billy must become Captain Marvel and save the world from utter destruction.

Jeff Smith is a master comic creator. He has a knack of putting together great stories and art for all ages. SHAZAM! is a throw-back to nostalgic comic days; it is charming, poignant and fun. Most of all, it is a book that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Smith does the coolest thing at the beginning of his chapters. He puts the chapter name in code and then provides the key. How fun is that? It made me yearn for my old superhero decoder ring. I loved it. I knew right then that this was going to be a fun story and I was not disappointed.

The story is especially interesting and appealing to children because it centers around a child who turns into an adult superhero and saves the world.

Smith pays attention, inserting bits of real life into his story. On the second page of the story, the television newscaster talks about a politician losing to his dead opponent’s wife. That actually happened in Missouri during the November 2000 election when John Ashcroft ran against incumbent Mel Carnahan for US Senate. Carnahan died unexpectedly in a plane crash and it was too late for his name to be taken off the ballot. Ashcroft lost against his dead opponent. Carnahan’s wife, Jean Carnahan, was appointed to the Senate seat. John Ashcroft was later appointed as Attorney General for President Bush. You can read the CNN account here. This can help teach kids to look for and make text-to-world connections.

One glance at the art and it is obvious that Jeff Smith was at work. The style is inexplicably his and is reminiscent of his wonderful opus, BONE. He has the wonderful ability to create art that is appealing to both children and adults. It is great.

Page 5

Page 16

Page 24-25

My Rating: All ages
Publisher’s Recommended Age: None

This is a book that parents and children could sit down and read together. They should; it’s great.

There is a bit of cursing in the book: “dammit” (page 11), “Hell no” (page 126), and a “let’s kick their asses!” on page 127. However, only the bad guys utter the curse words. The good guys say things like “Holy Moley.”

When Billy enters the subway system, he gets onto a subway train which is colored and designed to look like Captain Marvel, what with the red and yellow colors and the lightning bolt running the length of the crown. This is a perfect opportunity to teach children about foreshadowing and predicting.

Any students studying elections or citizenship could use SHAZAM! to talk about elections, even though that is not what the story is about. Kids would find it very interesting to know that a candidate ran and lost against a dead opponent. This is where history stops and fiction begins. The Attorney General is an evil and corrupt government official and he is one of the central antagonists, determined to gain power and control.

The dust jacket unfolds into a poster.

SHAZAM! THE MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL has a golden age feel to the story, yet the art is modern. It is a good tale that allows children to pretend they are powerful, superhero grown-ups who are important. Captain Marvel is a wonderful, classic hero that children can believe in.

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