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Saturday, February 13, 2010

This Week's Suspended Animation - Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil

Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil, published by DC Comics, 208 pages, $19.99.

Having just read Jeff Smith’s Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil, from DC Comics, I can only imagine the backlash, had it truly been an all-ages tale, as has been broadly declared by so many. “Hey, I bought this book for my child! Where’s the profanity?” “Wait a minute, DC, you forgot the inappropriate commentary on the snug nature of Captain Marvel’s costume! Where’s my first-grader supposed to pick up her awkward one-liners, now?”

I wax facetious, of course. No such disparaging commentary would have been heard, had this graphic novel been kid-worthy. So, why DID DC clear characters’ uses of “dammit”, “hell”, “ass”, and a less-than-ladylike observation from a female reporter (“I can see why they call you Captain Marvel.) in a purportedly all-ages tale? Ya got me. But it sure was enough to cast a pall over Monster Society for THIS father of a four- and seven-year-old.

“You’re not giving the book its due,” you might say. “What about the art and plot?”

The art, by Smith, is as vibrant and appealing as any savvy comics fan has come to expect from the creator of the crowd-pleasing Bone. Possessing a sense of whimsy and exuberance that fits Captain Marvel and his supporting cast to a “T”, it is pleasingly rounded out by Steve Hamaker’s vibrant colors.

The plot is solid enough, quickly establishing Billy Batson as a sympathetic character, whose life as a societal cast-off is suddenly given a sense of purpose when he is granted the powers of multiple demigods. The air of abandonment abates, and a fresh sense of hope abounds when he discovers family he never knew he had. Intense, yet, somehow light-hearted adventure ensues.
And, in the midst of it all, the light peppering of pointless potty-mouth.

“Well, kids are going to pick that stuff up pretty soon, anyway. What, you’re going to try to shelter them their whole life?”

No, only for as long as I can. And I CAN keep this book out of their hands for another few years. I recommend other parents do the same.

“Ah, grow up.”

Says the reader of comic books.

Review by Mark Allen

Suspended Animation for 2-5-2010 - Marvel Adventures

Marvel Adventures Iron Man, Volumes 2 and 3; Marvel Adventures Spider-Man, Hulk & Iron Man, Volume 1, published by Marvel Publishing, Inc., 96 pages, $7.99 and $9.99, respectively.

Having reviewed volume 1 of Marvel Adventures Iron Man a few weeks ago, and found it worthy of fans’ attention, I decided to hunt down a few more of Marvel’s digests, as much for the reading enjoyment of my children and myself as for review purposes.

Volumes 2 and 3 of M.A. Iron Man were, if anything, even better than the initial volume. As before, characterization does not take a back seat to superhero action. One of the departures this series takes from the classic Iron Man canon is to make a hero out of a classic villain in volume 2. My only question is why writer Fred Van Lente decided to make him a villain again in volume 3.

Both volumes also provide something most Iron Man fans want: various suits of armor which are visually distinctive, and possess interesting features. Volume 2 boasts one of the most entertaining tales, as Stark dons a recreation of the fan-favorite stealth armor (referred to here as “ghost” armor).
The art in both Iron Man volumes is more than competent, providing exciting, action-oriented visuals.

M.A. Spider-Man, Hulk & Iron Man, while not anything fans haven’t seen before, is a fine source of entertainment for kids, or adults who want superhero tales which are clean-cut and straightforward, albeit a bit “goofy” here and there; i.e., fighting “Meteor Men” who talk like surfers, and encouraging long-time villain Klaw in his new career as a (*cough*) country and western singer.

Since the association is never explained, readers are left to assume that, in this case, the three heroes are a known team, ala The Defenders, The Avengers, etc. Kudos to writer Paul Tobin and artist Alvin Lee for the fun-to-read, all-ages-appropriate fare.

Marvel Adventures titles are highly recommended, especially for children.

Review by Mark Allen