Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Great WW2 comics in high-quality format

It's 65 years since the Allies swept Nazi Germany from the face of the Earth into the dustbin of history. To mark the anniversary, I'm holding the Nazis Quit Mini-
Blogathon across my review blogs from April 5 until May 7.

The Shazam Family Archives, Vol. 1 (DC Comics, 2006)
Writers: Ed Herron, Otto Binder, William Woolfolk, and unknown writers
Artists: Mac Raboy, Al Carreno, and Marc Swayze
Rating: Nine of Tem Stars

In 1941, American went to war--all of America. Including the comic book characters. One of the very best examples of wartime propaganda were the adventures of teenaged superhero, who was orphaned, crippled and almost killed by the nefarious Captain Nazi. Fortunately, Captain Marvel had rescued the lad, taken him to his patron--the wizard Shazam--and asked that he be saved. Shazam was unable to fully heal the boy, but he granted him powers similar to those of Captain Marvel, so the boy could turn into a teenaged, Nazi-fighting, Jap-bashing, fascist-crushing superpowered dynamo of of magical energy known as Captain Marvel, Jr.

"The Shazam Family Archives, Vol 1" presents some of earliest and very best stories featuring Captain Marvel, Jr. Although the book is rounded out by the origin tale of Marvel Marvel (the girl counterpart of Captain Marvel Jr., and twin sister of Captain Marvel himself), the real attraction of this book are the Mac Raboy-illustrated Captain Marvel Jr. stories and covers.

The stories by Mac Raboy are among some of the most gorgeous comic book tales created in the 1940s. His realistic, highly detailed, art-nouveau style is one that still stands comparable to modern comic book artists. The gorgeous covers he drew for the issues of "Master Comics" that are also represented in this volume are worthy pieces of art in their own right, and some should even be considered among the great pieces of WW2 propaganda artwork. Rayboy's art on the ten of the 16 stories in this volume is so excellent that the otherwise passable work of Carreno and Swayze (which was at the high end of average quality-wise for the time) looks positive ameuterish in comparison. In fact, it wasn't until Don Newton illustrated Captain Marvel Jr. and other members of the Shazam Family in "World's Finest Comics" in the early 1980s that we'd have an artist that came close to matching the beauty and grace in Raboy's art.

Aside from the remarkable artwork, the villains that Captain Marvel Jr. faces are also ruthless, violent, and crazy enough to satisfy readers who worship at the feet of Garth Ennis and/or Steve Dillon.

"The Shazam Family Archives, Vol. 1" is a handsome, high-quality collection of some of the finest comics produced during the 1940s... or ever for that matter. It's a book that is a worthy addition to any lover of comics' bookshelf.

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