UPDATE: Now available in paperback in the UK
There used to be a time when superhero comics were aimed at children, before DVDs, computer games and teen-wizards finally swamped comics with their superior sales. As existing audiences grew up and new blood failed to appear, the themes and content of superhero comics cranked up to a more adult level.
Which is not to say that comics for kids don’t exist – there are many creating ‘all ages’ comics suitable for families. It’s just that superheroes aren’t often among them.
Jeff Smith, famous for his superb, family-friendly Bone series is looking to tip the balance back with Shazam. Captain Marvel has always been a seemingly child-friendly character because his human alter-ego, Billy Batson, is a child himself. In this book Smith offers a quick recap of Marvel’s origins to get new readers up to speed then ploughs him full-throttle into saving the world from evil.
The story maintains a certain level of sophistication and plenty of drama, though there’s little here that will phase a literate seven-year-old, and plenty to keep adults entertained too. The art is bold and colourful, deeply reminiscent of Bone in places, and with something of a feeling that Marvel is a throwback to a more innocent era, before superheroes started needing psychotherapy.
Die hard grown-ups might find it all a bit light and fluffy. But if you hanker for the days when your Dad sat down with you and read a comic, and wish you could do the same with your own kids, let Jeff Smith carry you on a voyage of pure adventure – we doubt you’ll regret it.