So this is the last part of a four issue story arc by Mike Kunkel. It's excellent stuff, but you would really do well to pick up the previous three issues or wait for the inevitable trade. Let this review, then, serve to let you know it's a terrific series. We need to see more of this type of comic.
Jeff Smith ret-conned the Big Red Cheese's origin a couple years back in SHAZAM! THE MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL. His version, balancing the whimsy of CC Beck's original stories with some modern revisions, was a tough act to follow. Kunkel manages to do so by taking the silly spirit of Shazam and cranking it up to 11. Kunkel's animation background is obvious. Each page resembles a storyboard densely packed with funny and dynamic images. Imagine a superhero comic told entirely in Sergio Aragones' Mad Magazine marginals. Or better yet, see for yourself:
Earlier this week I complained a bit about large, vacant page layouts so common in comic books today. Kunkel proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that exciting storytelling can be the size of thumbnails.
As for the story, he manages to have it both ways. It's a superhero tale full of fisticuffs and exploding monsters. But then Batson saves the day by using brains to trump mindless violence. A cynic might call it exploitive- laying on the fight scenes before saying, "No but really kids, violence solves nothing! You gotta use your brains!"
But isn't that the best kind of superhero comic? Shazam yeah, it is!
Mike Kunkel's blog, full of tasty bits.