Black Adam #1: I Know Nothing About This Character, But He’s Awesome!

WARNING!!! SPOILERS FOR BLACK ADAM #1!!!

Black Adam (as well as Shazam) is a character I’m far from familiar with. I don’t know much about the character outside of Teth-Adam living as a slave before bestowed the powers of a pantheon of gods. However, I still find Adam incredibly interesting–especially his backstory–and I’ve tried to strengthen my knowledge about the character (and Shazam). I read the recent four-issue-mini-series featuring Shazam and enjoyed watching Billy find the Rock of Eternity and get his powers back. Although the first issue of Black Adam doesn’t connect to the mini-series, it was still an enjoyable read that captured the best parts of the antihero.

My favorite part of the first issue is how Priest presents a scene in which Adam is as bored as we are (a Senate meeting) and pulls the rug out from under us. Suddenly, the reader is absorbed in Sandoval’s artwork and a battle between Darkseid and Black Adam. Adam doesn’t only look strong; he feels strong and jumps off the page. Each lightning bolt shoots out of the issue, each punch between the two goliaths resonates in your chest, and you feel your eyes and brain struggling to comprehend the speed at which Adam is traveling, and that’s something I don’t know if I’ve ever felt from a comic. And, what’s better, it’s bloody! A bludgeoning to behold!

Honestly, I should’ve been able to predict that the Darkseid was a fake conjured by Desaad, but honestly, it was a brilliant decision on Priest’s part. He presents the reader with a villain we all know to be insanely powerful, and as a reader, I found myself saying, “Oh my God! He’s pounding Darkseid’s face in!”

It’s great, it’s powerful, and it’s–

Hello? Are you there? Oh, damn, we’re back in the senate meeting. What I meant to say is, “it’s so satisfying!” It’s a brief moment, but when put into context with the rest of the issue, it makes sense. The reader finds out at the end of the issue that Adam is dying and lining up his next heir to the powers of Black Adam. So, the scene symbolizes the excitement (and violence) of being Black Adam while also taking note of how short-lived that role feels to Teth, despite being centuries old. Then you jump back to the Senate meeting between the U.S. and Kahndaq, pointing out that there’s more to the role than just being a brawler. Adam’s a king; passing the torch is inevitable, and Priest is merely building a story with themes of passing the said torch to the next generation.

The “passing of the torch arc” isn’t exactly foreign to comic readers. We’ve seen it most notably when Steve Rogers gave the shield to Bucky or Sam. We’ve seen it in Thor, and the recent run of Iron Fist, while also witnessing it in Batman, Flash, and the current Superman readings. However, these arcs usually fail to last long, with publishers returning to the original status quo. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Teth-Adam back with his powers within the next few years, or who knows? Perhaps he will regain them by the end of the twelve-issue series.

However, I do have my minor gripes with Priest’s writing decisions. In my opinion, these arcs are at their greatest when written slowly, forcing the reader to go through the pain of watching their favorite character decay and drained of their powers. It makes the arc sad, almost torturous to watch, but Priest takes a different angle. By the end, Adam is already a decrepit old man clutching a cane and barely able to support his weight. We don’t get that development; we don’t get to see that hardship and frustration that Adam is surely going through. He just kind of says, “yeah, it’s time Malik. You’re next in line.” I respect that writers have to meet page and issue requirements, but with twelve issues, Priest could’ve taken it a bit slower if he chose to do so. It’s certainly not a poorly written issue, but it feels like we’re rushed into a story that could arguably be stronger if it’s left to marinate for some time.

Another weird thing is how Malik is randomly introduced as this sort of unlikable, cocky character. Sure, his arc will probably be engulfed in maturation, and that growth will turn him into a man Adam can be proud of (instead of the boyish character he is now). But then, on the next page, Adam calls Malik “my descendant,” and if it’s because they’re blood-related or if Malik was simply randomly selected, we don’t know. Surely we’ll find out later, but it all still feels rushed to me.

I know I’m not the one writing this series (obviously), but I’m sure these gripes will be addressed in later issues. Surely Priest will develop some of Adam’s struggles with losing his powers, and we’ll see massive growth from Malik. I’m also sure that we’ll get more stunning action sequences from Sandoval, and overall, I’m excited for the rest of the series. This issue is a solid start, and even if I think it could be written differently, I trust what Priest and Sandoval are doing. They’re brilliant creators, and that’s apparent in dialogue, action, and the development we do have. This issue feels like it’s meant to be a big one and punch the story forward quicker than most first issues, and that’s what makes me excited about what the two have planned for the series as a whole. It has got to be a wild, action-packed story if they’re pushing it forward this aggressively, right?

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