Sha-Zam, This Jeff Smith Guy Should Make Cartoons

There’s two things you should know about me. First, I’ve never read Bone. I started it, got bored or distracted and am still only an issue or two into that giant omnibus. I’m sure I’ll get to it at some point, just not in the near future. And thing the second, even though the idea of Jeff Smith’s Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil made perfect sense to me and I had access to all the issues, I didn’t read it when it came out in single issues. I flipped through and looked at the pretty pictures, but didn’t get my hands dirty. So, now that I’ve read the trade, I’ve got a few thoughts.

Now, there’s no doubt that Smith is a master of telling gorgeous stories that both children and adults can enjoy. I would hand this book to my younger cousins in a heartbeat. There’s not a ton of violence and the violence that is on the panel is always between good and evil (usually between Captain and Mary Marvel and monsters). Actually, this book may be better for kids than adults.

The problem I had was that I could see all the beats coming from a mile away. Now, I’m no genius, but I have been reading comics and books and watching movies and TV for most of my 26 years on this earth, so I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp on stories, how they’re told and, usually, how they’ll turn out. I’m not going to give away the “twists” but they all seemed pretty telegraphed.

So, that left me looking for the smaller changes, mostly the differences between the previous incarnations of Shazam I’ve read like some of the Showcase Edition, Kingdom Come and current DC continuity, though not Power of Shazam (which is on my reading list). The new designs for Talky Tawny and Mr. Mind are very cool. I like how Billy Batson has it pretty rough as a homeless kid living in an abandoned house. I like that Smith went back and used the original “block falling on the Wizard” element, but the fact that the block is still on the chair when they head to the Rock of Eternity later is awesome. And I like how they updated Billy’s job, making it more relevant.

But, unfortunately, all those little bits just weren’t enough to keep me interested through the final issue, which is where all the plot points come together to a completely expected conclusion. Now, like I said, I think this is a great book for kids, but maybe not adults. Or maybe I’m just too jaded.

All this being said, I wish this was a cartoon. I have way more patience for something I’m watching than something I’m spending my precious few reading hours on and this would really be a dynamite way to bring Smith’s already highly dynamic, yet classic art style to either the big or small screen. I’m thinking it would be a great regular cartoon series or one of Warner Bros.’s straight-to-DVD hero movies like Wonder Woman (which is on my to-watch list) and Green Lantern, which I can’t freaking wait for.

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