Ringing the changes
RELEASED OUT NOW! Publisher DC Comics
Artist Rafa Sandoval
As the movie tagline “The world needed a hero. It got Black Adam” indicates, launching a new monthly title featuring a morally questionable, seemingly immortal despot who’s killed thousands of people over millennia is no easy task.
Priest – first name Christopher, and not to be confused with the British sci-fi author of the same name – gets around this cleverly by infecting Lord Theo Rameses Djoser Teth-adam – to give him his full title – with an apparently fatal space virus, and passing on his magic ring to a new successor in the shape of one of his many descendants, African-american medical student Malik White. Assuming the form of White Adam, Malik immediately shows where his true priorities lie by transporting the stricken Teth-adam from Kahndaq to Washington DC, where he proceeds to stabilise his patient using modern medicine rather than ancient wisdom.
Perhaps best read in chunks, Priest’s script is dense and nuanced and some effort is required to keep up with its numerous developments, as it constantly shifts between different time frames and locations, including an interstellar battle with a fake Darkseid and the assassination of one of Tethadam’s political rivals.
Refreshingly optimistic and good-humoured, it sees Priest establishing a rich everyday life for Malik, who is “stuck in the friend zone” with his best pal Jasmin and also has to deal with his troubled sister, Nisha, and her endearing baby.
Most intriguingly, issue three introduces a new pantheon of gods based on Sumerian and Mesopotamian legend, who will hopefully play a part in future storylines. Projected as a 12-issue series, its opening three-part arc focuses on the passing of the Adam mantle between Teth-adam and Malik, and while it sets up several mysteries, it doesn’t resolve too many matters. With shades of Alan Moore’s classic Swamp Thing, issue four finds Malik interacting with the wider
DC Universe as he goes it alone, first battling Etrigan the Demon before Sargon the Sorcerer makes a welcome appearance.
Published under DC’S mature Black Label imprint, Priest’s take on Black Adam is comparable to Alan Moore’s radical reinvention of Marvel/miracleman, who, of course, was first created as a British version of Captain Marvel/ Shazam. Excellently supported by Rafa Sandoval’s sinewy, fluid art and Matt Helm’s vibrant colours, this is a much subtler and darker Black Adam than the one you can expect to see on the big screen – although it would be great to see The Rock duking it out with White Adam in a sequel. Stephen Jewell
Created by Otto Binder and CC Beck, Black Adam debuted in The Marvel Family issue one in December 1945.
Perhaps best read in chunks, Priest’s script is dense and nuanced