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'Black Adam' #1 review: The man comes around
DC Comics

Comic Books

‘Black Adam’ #1 review: The man comes around

Challenging, subversive, and mean as all hell, this is exactly the Black Adam book you’d hope to get from this creative team.

In this new 12-issue miniseries from Christopher Priest, Rafa Sandoval, and Matt Herms, readers are reintroduced to Black Adam. Big cosmic battles and questions of loyalty and legacy ensue as we dive deeper into the man behind the myth.

Heavy hangs the head who wears the crown, and none may be heavier than the one worn by Black Adam. From the very first moment, it becomes apparent that Priest has a unique take on Black Adam and the world in which he walks. Aside from an early appearance from a Justice Leaguer, this story feels utterly divorced from any notions of Black Adam as a part of the superhero community. He is strictly focused on taking care of his people, and the rest of the world can burn for all he cares.

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And so the character that we follow through the bulk of this issue isn’t Black Adam, but rather his human counterpart of Theo Teth-Adam. Readers are thrust into a world of political intrigue and diplomatic relations, which are sure to become even more tense as Theo shows an unwillingness to play ball.

Rafa Sandoval just crushes throughout this book, immediately giving readers a feel for Theo as someone who can’t be bothered with these smaller men for too long. He’ll make an appearance at these hearings, but there’s no part of him that wants to make the other people in the room comfortable or even feel like he’s listening. They are taking up his time, but none of his attention. This confidence carries through into the issue’s big action sequence, which at first feels disconnected from the larger story at play.

The circumstances surrounding this battle has yet to be explained, but the important thing right now is that it rips. Black Adam is full of bravado in this fight, telling his opponent (whom I won’t spoil here) that he almost pities him before systematically tearing him apart. The energy in this fight is palpable, and Sandoval imbues Adam with a sense of strength and certainty of victory that the reader can’t help but admire. Herms’ colors really pop here, giving every splash of red and every flash of energy a quality that is both visceral and otherworldly. The barren landscape here is also brought to greater life by the color palette, making it even more clear that we are dealing with a fight in the depths of space.

'Black Adam' #1 review: The man comes around
DC Comics

But it doesn’t just take putting the character in space to emphasize how singular he is among the other superpowered beings of the world. There are moments throughout in which Adam’s loneliness is capitalized upon to great effect. One excellent example would be a panel in which he walks away from flashbulbs and streetlights, cutting a shadowy figure right down the middle of the panel as he shields himself from the rain in his all-black getup. Nobody follows him, and nobody wants to.

One of the elements of this story that will likely lead to some debate among readers — aside from maybe some of the political theatre in this issue, which I dug — is the introduction of Malik White, the heir to Black Adam. Malik is immediately characterized as a strong-willed person with a clear idea of what he wants out of life. We get a great feel for his personality in a sequence during which he takes the piss out of an injured white supremacist. There’s already a bit of Black Adam in this man, as seen when he helps this awful person out — all while reminding him of the power he holds over his wellbeing. Herms’ color choices in these sequences also do a great job of showing us the differences between Malik and Adam, putting Malik in mostly brighter and warmer surroundings (aside from one scene in which everything goes wrong for him).

Malik is also a total motormouth. In many ways, he’s the anti-Adam at this point in the story. I have a feeling readers’ mileage may vary when reacting to the character’s constant quips and pop culture references, but I found myself grooving with Malik’s attitude. Anyone who can annoy a white supremacist with a history lesson about Wu-Tang Clan is alright by me. He can be a bit much at times, but it also makes perfect sense to introduce this kid here. After all, Black Adam seems to be disinterested in being a shining example of heroism. In much the same way that he reminded us that Deathstroke is not a man to be celebrated, Priest avoids any notions of Black Adam being this misunderstood anti-hero. And so, it may fall on Malik’s shoulders to go through the classic hero’s journey.

This issue has it all, and it may be a lot to take in for new readers — and maybe even for some seasoned readers, as it throws out a good bit of what’s going on with current continuity in regards to Black Adam. And honestly, I think that’s one of its strengths. This is already a challenging miniseries that is very much doing its own thing with the magical, cosmic side of the DC Universe, and I can’t wait to see how else Priest and co. push the envelope.

'Black Adam' #1 review: The man comes around
‘Black Adam’ #1 review: The man comes around
Black Adam #1
Challenging, subversive, and mean as all hell, this is exactly the Black Adam book you'd hope to get from this creative team. Readers are in for something entirely new.
Reader Rating1 Vote
Presents a take on the title character that embraces Teth-Adam's mythology and adds intriguing new wrinkles
The action is wild and bloody, but it's balanced by intriguing real-world concerns that feel even more pressing
The characterizations of Black Adam and Malik are fascinating, especially in how they seem to fully oppose one another
Malik is almost devoid of chill, which may or may not work for some readers (I mostly loved everything that came out of his mouth)
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