I’ve only read a little bit of ‘Bone’. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t grab me like it did some readers. Still, I recognize Jeff Smith’s place in the pantheon of comic book authors: the guy’s an original both as auteur and entrepreneur.
I just wish that I enjoyed his work: I was bored to tears by RASL (or whatever it’s called). And now, I’m finding his take on Captain Marvel only mildly interesting. Mildly. I read the intro, so I get what he’s going for, but it simply didn’t take with me.
Perhaps I was never really a fan of Captain Marvel. That must be it.
When I was six years old, I discovered Captain Marvel and kind of liked the big lug. But he was getting very little exposure by then (he was mostly popular during the ’40s), so it was hard for me to even remember his name. And since none of my friends knew much -if anything- about him, I resorted to calling him Super Andrew (after one of my friends’ dad – who really didn’t appreciate this misappropriation of his name ). Obviously, this was short-lived; Captain Marvel vanished as quickly as he’d appeared on my radar.
So it’s quite possible that I simply don’t get Captain Marvel, who is commonly referred to as Shazam because it’s the magic word Billy has to speak to transform into the superhero – and people think that he’s shouting out his name. Heck, I thought that as a kid, too. Still, if I couldn’t remember “Captain Marvel”, I sure as heck wasn’t going to remember “Shazam”. Let’s face it: you have to understand the character’s origin to remember the damned word – otherwise, “Shazam” has absolutely no meaning whatsoever.
All this to say that, no small part due to some lingering childhood curiosity, I picked up this book. And, although I remain mildly intrigued by Captain Marvel (who has recently been renamed “Shazam” by a beleaguered DC Comics), I’ve been temporarily sated by what was here a pretty standard comic book – good on all counts, but certainly nothing outstanding in any way, shape or form. Alex Ross seems to be really impressed with it, which is saying something. But I’m no Alex Ross.
The one area of note, I find, is the artwork. It’s imperfectly-rendered (ex: Billy’s nubby, pointy indexes), but it has a pleasant style that is nestled somewhere between realism and cartoon. What I found almost heart-wrenching is that the original black and white drawings (as featured at the back of the book) are better off without colour. It nagged at me throughout the book; I kept wondering why I didn’t like the art as much as I should. The answer is: it should have remained in b&w! Smith’s style is terrific but was hampered by the colouring. Oh well.
In the end, I’m happy to have explored this volume, and it’s a nice tome to have on my shelf. But I highly doubt that I will be revisiting it anytime soon. It has done two things, though: it has kept my curiosity about Captain Marvel intact, and it has almost sealed my ambivalence to Jeff Smith – I will give him another chance later, but, as it stands, I feel no interest whatsoever in exploring his published works. Shazam!