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'Black Adam' #4 nearly drops the ball in a precarious moment of the book's build-up
DC Comics

Comic Books

‘Black Adam’ #4 nearly drops the ball in a precarious moment of the book’s build-up

After three truly great issues, the book falters, wading through some issues while tentatively plotting a way back to the golden path.

I had some very kind words in my last review of Black Adam.

OK, so maybe saying that I simply “liked” Christopher Priest and Rafa Sandoval’s book isn’t exactly gushing. But it’s been a damn fine start to a truly exciting project. Mostly ’cause it’s already been a powerful way to explore ideas of legacy and the future while dissecting Teth-Adam in a way that’s both nuanced and unwaveringly true to the character.

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But I’m not exactly feeling quite as over the moon after issue #4.

That’s not to say it’s not a good issue. But things felt a little uneven, and as much promise as there was within, it was marked by noticeable downsides.

The upsides had everything to do with Black Adam. Without spoiling too much, we get closer to the heart of the Akkad, the mysterious gods that Adam interacted with primarily in issue #3. Adam has a very important connection to these still-mysterious deities, and it’s clear that his continued understanding and interactions will have a lot to do with informing his own role in exploring and shaping what legacy there is to build.

Black Adam #4

Courtesy of DC Comics.

I think the angle taken here, where Adam’s a kind of “benefactor” of sorts to the Akkad, is a great way to complicate his larger role, and to play with his plans and machinations to extend the book’s core themes of redemption and building a proper lineage. It was a little muddled to follow at first, but there’s some solid groundwork laid that will help tear down the ego and bravado of Adam for something genuinely insightful.

And speaking of Adam, it should be clear already that the man’s far from dead. The so-called “space plague” he caught doesn’t seem like it’s ending his reign just get, and that too promises some great thematic potential. Is it also a bit of a cop-out or even a tease to not actually have him die? Maybe. But it also gets Adam thinking about what he’s facing not only with the Akkad but his relationship with Malik/White Adam (or, as he calls himself in this issue, Danger Boy) — not to mention what a “new” lease on life might do for his mentality in general. There’s some big questions still left to answer, but once more of the groundwork’s been laid to give Adam some obstacles while exploring what these insights say about himself and his continued “evolution.”

Black Adam

Courtesy of DC Comics.

But aside from that, I think the rest of the issue felt like a bit of a letdown. The stuff with Malik felt promising in parts, most notably a great interaction that hints at a tumultuous future between mentor and mentee. But alas, Malik was mostly away from Adam in this issue, and we got to see some stuff with his family life — mostly, a seemingly complicated relationship with an older sister and niece who’ve injected themselves in his life. That family drama lends Malik more depth, and sheds light on why he might have taken up his new role. But it mostly felt a little forced and trite, and it ultimately a mere footnote of the issue. But from there, though, we got the biggest blunder of the issue — an appearance from Etrigan.

Yes, the rhyming demon should be the highlight of any book he pops up in. But their fight — which may have been both a sanctioned training exercise and a way to further tease the Adam-Adam beef — just felt sort of shoehorned in. As if we needed big fights or a similar set piece, and the lack of organic intentions and disconnect between the Adam and Etrigan canons just didn’t do enough to make something big truly land. (There was also the inclusion of a cliched, overexaggerated gang that only made things feel hokey and awkward, but that’s maybe best ignored or chalked up to a bit of bad planning.)

Black Adam

Courtesy of DC Comics.

I think if you’re going to have a book about legacy characters, we need more time between the two Adams. And in a vital moment for that, they couldn’t have been further apart, and that hurt what this book seems to be trying to do: explore the unpredictable future of the Adam name and tradition. Sure, that could shift in subsequent issues, or this could’ve been time to set the seeds of dissension and distrust. But it felt like even more bad planning from a book that’s mostly been solid in that regards. It made Malik feel ordinary and less special, as having him engage with Adam as he’s done in the other issues facilitated some profound character development and world-building and even a little bit of philosophizing. Etrigan’s just not what he needed right this very moment in his early superheroing days.

And, while it wasn’t nearly as questionable as the Malik stuff, I think the art in this issue felt a little average across the board. In the last three issues, it’s been pretty great in setting the tone and giving us interesting visual devices (like White Adam’s costume and how it speaks volumes about Malik and his relationship with Black Adam). But this issue didn’t have enough substance from a visual standpoint. The design of the Akkad felt pretty cool; it gave real New Gods meets the Eternals vibes (and let us understand these characters even if the narrative hadn’t quite given them the time yet).

Black Adam #4

Courtesy of DC Comics.

But then we get the “fight” with Etrigan, and it just felt rushed and poorly executed. Not even a sweet lighting blast shot from Malik could do enough to make it feel like a bigger moment visually or thematically. The art doesn’t have to do much in this book to work, and it’s excelled thus far in facilitating some quite moments of power. But here it felt like all thunder and not nearly enough lightning.

This issue wasn’t nearly disappointing enough to sway me from my feelings for the book at-large. I think it was meant to be a kind of transitionary moment as they built the world up around the two Adams. However, it mostly felt like a misstep as the team tried to set the stage but got distracted with weird tangents and guest stars. I have confidence the book can leap forward with poise and grace, but this issue just felt like a series of missed opportunities paired with some solid, slightly insubstantial upswings in momentum and interest.

Next time, I just need more thoughtful character interactions and succinct storylines if my “like” can ever truly be “like like.”

'Black Adam' #4 nearly drops the ball in a precarious moment of the book's build-up
‘Black Adam’ #4 nearly drops the ball in a precarious moment of the book’s build-up
Black Adam #4
After three truly great issues, the book falters, wading through some issues while tentatively plotting a way back to the golden path.
Reader Rating2 Votes
8.5
The subtle visual moments, liked the Akkad designs, still packed punch.
The story around Black Adam built in some really interesting ways.
Despite missteps, the book laid the foundation to easily bounce back starting in issue #5.
Malik/White Adam felt a little lost and underused across the issue.
Etrigan's appearance came off a little forced and/or awkward.
We needed more Adam-to-Adam interactions this early in the book.
6.5
Good
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