My friend Brad and I had one of those great comic-book relationships.

He liked Batman, I’m a Superman geek. He was into Oliver Queen, I prefer Hal Jordan. Brad was a Cyclops fan. Me? Wolverine.

So it wasn’t any great coincidence that we had that great team-like chemistry, good-natured jibes and all.

Brad died Sunday night, suddenly, and I wanted to write this week’s column about two of the books he was really interested in. He’d talked to me for a month about trying to fit in DC’s “The Trials of Shazam,” written by one of his favorite Green Arrow writers, Judd Winnick.

And he was really looking forward to “Batman-The Spirit,” a one-shot with the Dark Knight and Will Eisner’s famous hero that hit the shelves Wednesday.

Well, I found Brad’s first three issues of “The Trials of Shazam” sitting on my table and gave them a read. Then I went and picked up “Batman-The Spirit” at the shop.

I have to admit, I’m not a big Captain Marvel fan. I always just found it weird that this 14-year-old kid could say “Shazam!” and turn into a 20- or 30-something superhero. And I always thought the backstory was a little cheesy. I mean, c’mon, the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury? Pure cracker topping.

But it’s the mark of a good creative team to grab a skeptic and make them interested in the title. That’s what Winnick and artist Howard Porter have done with “Trials.” It picks up from the post-“Infinite Crisis” series “Brave New World,” and sees Billy Batson learn how, and here’s the tagline, “the rules of magic have changed,” since the wizard Shazam’s death.

Now Billy must be Captain Marvel eternally, guarding over the magic, complete with a shiny new white costume and Edgar Winter’s hair.

Enter Captain Marvel Jr., Freddie Freeman. He’s passed on the mantle, and must now become Shazam himself, and be the Earthly champion of the magic.

Winnick takes you through the first three issues quickly, providing plenty of action. Once Freddie gets involved, it’s a pretty fun ride. And origin stories are always interesting (unless they’re the new Blue Beetle), especially when it’s a total re-imagining of the character like this one is.

Porter’s art is very stylized, bringing a classic look to the book. All in all, an impressive read. If anything, I’m curious to see how the trials turn out throughout the rest of the 12-issue series.

“Batman-The Spirit” is a totally different kind of adventure. The Eisner estate recently signed off on letting Darwyn Cooke take over the reins of the trenchcoat-wearing hero, and the one-shot story he and Batman aficionado Jeph Loeb came up with is a very fun little ride back in time.

Everything from Cooke’s and Loeb’s writing, to J. Bone’s inks to Dave Stewart’s colors screams Golden Age. It’s like taking a time machine back to 1940’s comics. It’s campy, it’s got an interesting look, and it’s a lot of fun.

Batman and Robin haven’t been this much fun to read in a while, in fact. The Dark Knight has been, well, dark much of the of the past three or four years, and a lot of the fun of the character has been lost recently.

It’s good to remember Bruce actually had a good time kicking butt every now and again, instead of brooding in his cave every issue. Some of the current Batman writers should take note of what makes this one-shot work.

It’s the perfect kickoff for Cooke’s new Spirit monthly series.

Both “The Trials of Shazam” and “Batman-The Spirit” grab your attention quickly when you open them up. And, Brad was right, both are just good books with great creative teams.

It’s too bad he won’t be around to read the “Batman-The Spirit” one-shot. He would really have enjoyed it.

And if he hadn’t recommended it to me, I might never have picked it up.

Now I’m feeling the need to get a little re-acquainted with the Green Arrow.

Next Week: Marvel goes into the future with everyone’s favorite superhero family in “Fantastic Four: The End.”

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