Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder #1 (2005)

Superman/Shazam!: First Thunder #1 (November, 2005)
“A Face in the Crowd!”
Writer – Judd Winick
Artist – Joshua Middleton
Letterer – Nick J. Napolitano
Associate Editor – Tom Palmer Jr.
Editor – Mike Carlin
Cover Price: $3.50

After finishing my post-Crisis Captain Marvel 101 course, I figured I’d stay on the Shazam! train and check out the… um, post-Crisis (?) post-Zero Hour (?) post-Infinite Crisis (?)… er, let’s just say pre-Flashpoint Captain Marvel’s first meeting with the Man of Steel.

We open on the wizard Shazam as he recounts the many marvels (no pun intended) of the DC Universe including the usual suspects… Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Batman and Superman.

Meanwhile, in Fawcett City a small advertising plane has lost control and is plummeting toward the crowded street below.  Just as its about to “take a little off the top” for some Fawcett residents, Captain Marvel grabs it by the tail and keeps it in the sky.

At the Metropolis Museum of Natural History a heist is underway.  As the man in charge shouts orders to some flunkies, he fails to notice that Superman silently snared them up.  The big bad and some of his cronies draw magical canes from their holsters and summon a large gollum looking beast from the void.

Superman and the beast do battle with neither really getting the upper hand.  Superman is somewhat surprised at how fast this creature is for its rather large size.  The monster is finally knocked off of its feet, and when Superman attempts to lay in with a K.O. right, it vanishes… leaving only a tiny coin in its wake.

Back in Fawcett, Captain Marvel is readying himself for a battle with two large fire-breathing robots.  During the fight, he takes them apart piece by piece and finishes one off by throwing a gas tanker truck into its face.  The other goes down after Cap gives it the robo-version of a lobotomy.  Dr. Bruce Gordon (hmmm…) is there to witness the event.

That night, Billy Batson and best buddy Scott Cooper are camping out.  Scott shows Billy the newspaper, the cover story of which is a celebration of Captain Marvel’s day-saving exploits.  The paper also shows the story of the Metropolis Museum heist… and mentions that Russian Artifacts were stolen.

We take a break from the heroes to pop in on Dr. Sivana, who is the C.E.O. of Sivana Industries… and likely not Billy Batson’s uncle at this time.  It is revealed that he was behind the failed giant robot attack in Fawcett City.  He asks his assistant to get Lex Luthor on the phone to get an idea on how to handle his “Captain Marvel problem”.

Returning to Billy, we find him standing in front of the McKeon History Museum… where there is also, in Billy’s words “a bunch of old Russian stuff”.  He Shazams! up, and enters the museum.

Inside he finds the same heist-guys from the Metropolis job.  This time the baddies summon two beasties.  Cap runs into battle, head first… only to get knocked all the way out of the building!

Outside he finds himself in the presence of the Man of Steel, who offers to give him a hand…

Wow, this was pretty to look at.  I was first introduced to Joshua Middleton during the NYX miniseries (which, if I recall correctly introduced X-23 into the Marvel Universe proper).  His art was so drastically different that you couldn’t help but notice it.  I enjoyed it there, and I enjoy it here.

Judd Winick runs hot and cold with me.  When he’s telling a comic book story, I think he’s great… when he’s standing on his oft-used soapbox, I have (less than) no interest.  Here he writes a story… or at least the first chapter of one… and for what it is, it’s quite nice.  Keeping in mind that this is a current millennium book… which means it takes all of five minutes to read, and nothing much actually happens.  This is clearly being written for the bookstore audience, and probably makes for a much more satisfying read in TPB format.

As a single-issue?  Like I said, not much happens… and what does happen, at least as it pertains to the fabled (and promised) “first meeting” between the Man of Steel and Earth’s Mightiest Mortal, is as predictable as can be.  Even before I cracked this one open, I knew the two wouldn’t meet until the final page… these kind of books are just a bit too formulaic.

Cannot recommend this one at its cover price, if we’re talking about story… $3.50 is way too high.  The art, does make up for a great deal… but, I’d still feel a bit ripped-off had I paid full-price.  I paid 40-cents, and feel I got my money’s worth.  If you see this on the cheap, it’s worth it for the art alone.  If you come across the trade, maybe give it a flip through.

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