I feel like this issue of SHAZAM was probably purchased for my brother before ultimately ending up with me. That said, given that the cover features a reverse version of the hero, it is possible that I selected it myself, given my love of the Reverse-Flash.
It’s a pretty solid issue, with two stories both of which deliver a good reading experience. The opening tale by Elliot S! Maggin was illustrated by Kurt Schaffenberger, whose history with Captain marvel extended back into the 1950s and the final years of the Fawcett era. His clean, inviting style was as much a hand-in-glove fit with the character as it was for Lois Lane.
The issue opens with Bily Batson summoning Captain Marvel to take care of some routine criminals with high-tech ordinance. But as he does so, he’s observed by Zazzo, a bratty kid somewhat in the mold of Mr. Mxyzptlk. Zazzo’s arranged this criminal activity so as to coax Billy into saying the magic word and summoning down the transformative lightning.
And that’s because Zazzo has built himself a super lightning rod helmet, which waylays Billy’s lightning strike to him, transforming him into Zazzo-Plus, adorned in a uniform the reverse of Marvel’s. Now Shazam-empowered, he journeys to the Earth dimension to engage his unwitting foe.
Using his newfound might, Zazzo-Plus causes all manner of trouble for the Big Red Cheese–nothing fatal, but all annoying and in the spirit of nasty fun. Marvel thinks he’s got Zazzo-Plus’s number, though, since he remembers earlier when Bily said the word and nothing happened. After confirming that it was Zazzo-Plus’s helmet that did the deed, Marvel says Shazam, intending to return him to normal.
But Zazzo-Plus is quicker than Cap had reckoned with. He removes the lightning rod helmet before the lightning can strike him–and as a result, it’s Marvel who becomes Billy Batson again. Taking advantage of his fortune, Zazzo-Plus seals Billy’s head in a muffle-mask designed to prevent him from speaking.
Things are looking bad for Billy, until he comes across Freddy Freeman at his newsstand. He can’t ask Freddy for help, but he know that stealing Freddy’s papers will cause Freddy to say his own magic word–and since Zazzo-Plus is still wearing the lightning rod helmet, the summoned bolt changes him back to plain old Zazzo. Billy is able to retrieve the helmet before Freddy can try again, resulting in the rebirth of Captain Marvel–who gives Zazzo a good spanking before turning him over to his father, Zazzo the Elder, and then eventually returning to let Freddy know what’s been going on.
The back-up was an enjoyable Mary Marvel story, illustrated by Bob Oksner, who drew the cutest heroines of the era, whether Supergirl or Mary herself. The plot of the story involves a mysterious swordsman waylaying Uncle Marvel at his regular television program, and threatening to blow up the building unless Uncle provides him with assistance in committing a crime. Uncle doesn’t have any real Shazam-powers, though, so he slips a secret message into his broadcast asking Mary for help.
Mary helps Uncle Marvel fake his powers, swiping a priceless painting for the swordsman bomber before ultimately bringing him to justice. The final page contains a fun sequence where the swordsman repeatedly tries to stab Mary, to no avail; that sounds much more violent typed out, but on the page it’s a cute visual moment.