Friday, April 15, 2016

Power of Shazam! #1,000,000 (1998)

Power of Shazam! #1,000,000 (November, 1998) or (November, 85271)
"Between the Rock and a Hot Place"
Writer & Penciller - Jerry Ordway
Inker - Dick Giordano
Colorist - Glenn Whitmore
Letterer - John Costanza
Assistant Editor - Frank Berrios
Editor - Mike Carlin
Cover Price: $2.50

The DC One Million issues never fail to catch my eye.  Not only due to their novel trade-dress, but also for just which titles were included... seeing that Young Heroes in Love (a title I need to visit sometime soon), Resurrection Man, and Superman: The Man of Tomorrow all had "One Million" issues makes me smile.  Another title that took part (of which I was unaware) is the book we're going to discuss today... The Power of Shazam!

As I'd mentioned during my Shazam! The New Beginning discussion, I have very little Captain Marvel knowledge... however, I'm trying to rectify that.  Perhaps jumping in on an issue #1,000,000 is a foolish way to "get my feet wet" on a character, but the cover looks awesome, so here we are...


We open at the Rock of Eternity where Steve Buscemi a woman called Satra finds the slumbering Captain Marvel, along with a treasure trove of artifacts.

Back on Mercury, which during this time frame serves as something of a communications hub, Satra emerges from a turbine.  She is greeted by her son, Tanist, who is sporting a cast on his right leg.  She removes her eye filters (-10 Buscemi) and hands over a disc crammed full of data that should prove to be of special interest to one called Tinker.

Satra heads off for a moment, leaving Tanist to guard the tesseract portal that lay deep behind the turbines.  A mustachioed gentleman called Prospero observes the activity and approaches the boy to get the skinny on what's going on.  The two struggle for a brief moment, before Prospero heads toward the portal planning on claiming its contents for himself.  As he gets pulled through, he begins to panic... Tanist grabs Prospero's leg, and they are both deposited at the Rock of Eternity.

The fellas approach the sleeping Marvel and Propero uses his eye-beams to slash off a chunk of his overgrown beard.  This reveals the famous Captain Marvel lightning-bolt... causing them to mistake him for the Flash.  When Prospero attempts to remove some hair that is obscuring the man's eyes, he is shocked to find Captain Marvel's eyes to be open.

Captain Marvel is now awake.  He lightly taps Prospero, which sends him flying... and look towards Tanist, who he confuses for old pal Freddy Freeman.

Prospero strikes back, firing an eye beam at one of the Rock's stalactites, causing it to nearly crush young Tanist.  Captain Marvel is able to shield the boy, however, the damage is already done.

Back on Mercury, the Headnet that connects all the inhabitants has gone kaput.  This causes all of the citizens to become wildly confused.  They all head into the tesseract, trampling Tanist's poor mother, Satra to death in the process.

Back at the Rock, Captain Marvel finds himself the target of multiple attackers, including Shade the M-Powered Woman, Atomic Ant (in his nicest Marvel/MiracleMan skivvies), Mr. Elastic, and the irredeemable Aquafresh.

Cap makes reasonably short work of these goofs, and in the process regains his missing memory.

He also remembers poor Tanist, and heads directly for him... passing by the Mercurians as they loot and destroy the treasures of the Rock.

With Tanist in his arms, Captain Marvel exits the tesseract.  When they are free from danger, he asks the lad to say his name.  Tanist lets out a "Captain Marvel", and is no sooner hit with a bolt of power-granting lightning!

The two Marvels then head out in attempt to locate the modern-day Flash.


Despite my confusion and perhaps inability to follow much of the goings on in this issue (I feel this is more an indictment on my reading comprehension than Mr. Ordway's ability to craft a narrative), I enjoyed it.  It would be unfair of me to point out any sort of perceived story-flaws, as this is just one chapter in a wide-reaching crossover... so I won't.

The action scenes were the high point of this issue, to me.  Watching Captain Marvel take on this crazy crew of villains (including the incomparable Aquafresh!) was a treat.  Seeing Cap finally get his memory back was great as well.  This story found a way to tie the contemporary Captain Marvel in with this far-flung future timeline, and did so perfectly.

My main problem becoming invested with stories like the Legion of Superheroes and, yes, even some other DC One Million entries is that the characters just feel too distant for me to really build any kind of connection with.  I don't worry when Saturn Girl is in trouble... because whatever she's going through just feels so far away.

It's like that George Carlin bit, that I will attempt to paraphrase/butcher.  He said something like, if you hear about a grand tragedy on television or over the radio, your ears perk up... and then when you come to learn that the incident occurred on the other side of the planet, you no longer care.  That's how I am with respect to comic stories that take place in the future (or in space, if I'm being honest).  With this being the "real" Billy Batson Captain Marvel (at least to my knowledge), I was able to actually care about the outcome.

This is a hard one to recommend as an out-of-sequence random read, but in viewing it as part of the greater DC One Million tapestry... or if you're a Captain Marvel fan, definitely check this one out.


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