SUPERMAN/SHAZAM: FIRST THUNDER

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I’ve written before that Captain Marvel is #1 on my list of 10 FAVORITE SUPERHEROES. Unfortunately, he’s vary rarely been portrayed correctly in the comics, in my opinion. This is one of those stories that nails it perfectly. Written by Judd Winick and drawn by Joshua Middleton, this was a 4-issue miniseries originally published by DC Comics in 2006, which tells the story of the first time Captain Marvel and Superman met and teamed up.

In issue #1 we open in Fawcett City, where Captain Marvel stops a falling helicopter, while in Metropolis Superman foils a robbery @ a museum and is confronted by some magical beasts, which enables the robbers to get away. Then Captain Marvel fights a couple of giant robots, who are attacking a solar power research center run by Dr. Bruce Gordan. We later see Captain Marvel in his civilian identity as Billy Batson, who’s living in a tent in an alley with a bunch of other homeless people. His only real friend, who also knows his secret identity, is another young boy named Scott, who lives in a foster home that Billy ran away from. Later that night, as Captain Marvel, arrives @ a local museum to foil a robbery by the same crooks from Metropolis, when he gets attacked by some magical beasts and then Superman arrives to lend a hand.

In issue #2 Dr. Sivana flies to Metropolis for a covert meeting with Lex Luthor. The two don’t like each other, but Sivana wants Luthor’s help in getting rid of Captain Marvel. I like this scene because it shows both men as equals who respect each other as much as they hate each other. Luthor loans Sivana the services of a man called “Spec” whom Luthor claims can track Captain Marvel for Sivana. Meanwhile, Superman and Captain Marvel finish defeating the magic beasts from the previous issue, and then fly off to the North Pole to talk in private. This is a another great scenes that has this two superheroes just chatting and getting to know each other. Like I said, Winick really nails it here, Sivana, Luthor, Superman, and Captain Marvel are all characterized perfectly. Then the crooks who were robbing the museums in Metropolis and Fawcett have kidnapped a young man and perform some demonic ritual that transforms him into the supervillain Sabbac. Then @ the solar center, Dr. Gordon transforms into the villain Eclipso.

In issue #3 the two heroes fly back to Fawcett to face Sabbac, who is raging through the city. The Eclipso shows up so Superman splits to face him while Captain Marvel finishes off Sabbac. Meanwhile Spec, who had followed Captain Marvel back to the alley and saw him transform into Billy, returns to Sivana and gives him that information. Sivana sends a hit-squad of soldiers with guns to kill Billy.

I won’t get into what happens in the final issue, because I don’t want to spoil the ending, but let me just say that it’s very touching, and establishes a deep friendship between Superman and Captain Marvel that I would love to see explored more in future stories. It’s a shame that, for whatever reason, DC has never been able to make Captain Marvel work long-term in an ongoing series, because this miniseries shows how easily Cap can be integrated into the mainstream DCU. It has been collected in a paperback, which I highly recommend.

Amazon.com/First Thunder

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