Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil
by Jeff Smith (DC Comics, 2009)

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 4- and 7-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

16 February 2013

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