"Bone" creator Jeff Smith leaves the comfort of his own creation to play with one with a long-established history " namely Captain Marvel " in "Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil," a four-issue graphic novel.
Smith's revisionist take is an origin story that begins earlier than previous mythology, with Billy Batson not as a teenaged newsboy, but a homeless grade-schooler. Roaming free and wild on the streets of New York, he happens into the subterranean lair of a wizened old wizard who's seeking his next replacement. With no say in the matter, Billy is granted the gift of a magic word " "Shazam," natch " that turns him into a caped, well-chiseled superhero.
Good thing, too, because the Big Apple is being invaded by giant robots and alligator men. Even better, Billy happens upon his long-lost talking-tiger friend and his also-orphaned sister, Mary, for help.
Smith approaches the material with a child's open eyes, letting even a large-scale catastrophe seem charmingly innocent. The result is a book that can be appreciated by adults while it is devoured by kids; this may prove as an excellent entry point for introduce children to comics.
Even if the story wears out its welcome as it reaches its final chapter, Smith's art is consistently strong throughout "¦ much like its big-cheese hero. It's also better than DC's current, straight-take "Trials of Shazam" series.