THIS WEEK: As the character starts to get a push in other media, Black Adam #1 arrives, and the first issue is fantastic. Plus, Batman/Superman – World’s Finest #4 continues a DC Universe romp of a series.
Note: This piece contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdicts.
Artist: Rafa Sandoval
Colorist: Matt Herms
Letterer: Willie Schubert
There is a lot to like about this week’s marquee DC Comics release, Black Adam #1, the start of a new 12-issue maxi-series. There are, of course, the hard-hitting visuals from artist Sandoval (fresh off a major piece of work with Death of the Justice League), colored here by Herms and lettered by Schubert. There is the timing of the series, which coincides with the release of a new Black Adam movie trailer and a subsequent increase of awareness for the character across the media. And there is the fact that DC is giving Black Adam this series (which is set before Dark Crisis) while he is at the same time playing a major role in Dark Crisis, standing as he does as the only member of the Justice League to survive their recent fateful battle.
What stood out to me the most, however, is this book essentially brings the return of Priest as a writer to DC Comics, and his voice and intricate plotting have both been sorely missed in the line. Priest has more or less been away from the DC Universe since wrapping up two Rebirth era projects, a 50-plus issue run on Deathstroke that may very well end up being the defnining solo run for the character (if it’s not already) as well as a too-brief guest arc on Justice League that sort of ended the Rebirth-run for the team and bridged the gap before Scott Snyder and his collaborators launched the New Justice era. Those projects are both a few years in the rearview now, which for me made Priest’s return here with Black Adam all the more welcome.
From the first page, this book is possessed with a confident sort of complexity that is hard to pull off in superhero comics, one that these days almost feels like a bygone sensibility. On the first page of Black Adam #1, we get our lead character appearing at a Congressional hearing that reads realistic, down to using references to obscure governmental agencies. This sort of hyper-attention to detail might seem like a small thing, but it really adds realistic layers that make this comic standout. And it doesn’t bog down the story either. On that same page, Adam’s characterization is handled excellently as well, with the script and visuals working together to really make clear what kind of guy it is we’re dealing with here, one who is comfortably leaning back and almost napping while being questioned by congress, so aloof and sure of himself is he.
That’s not to say this reads as some sort of political procedural — though Black Adam is of course a head of state, and writing about aloof heads of state is something Priest has excelled at dating back to his now-classic run scripting Black Panther. No, by page two our lead character is superhero-ing it up, squaring off with Darkseid. And these first two pages are an excellent encapsulation of this book’s shared sensibilities, it’s desire to be a character study of an anti-hero operating at the highest levels of world politics while also using the ancient magic bestowed upon him to fight grandiose DC Universe battles, the sort that Sandoval is expert at illustrating, with the book definitely working to Sandoval’s strengths. This, put simply, is everything I wanted from Black Adam #1.
So, in that way it met expectations, but there were also some surprises in here that I enjoyed as well. There’s the addition of a new character, through which I suspect this series will ultimately be grounded. The twist — and I know we have a spoiler warning at the start of these pieces but I still feel obligated to warn you to turn back now one more time… — is that Black Adam is dying, and he has picked one of his descendents with whom to leave his vast powers. That descendent is Malik Adam White, a young American Black man who is as surprised as the audience to be pulled into Black Adam’s world. It’s this choice that actually makes Black Adam #1 one of Priest’s most accessible first issue comics in some time, giving the audience as it does a relatable character to follow into this world of geo-political/cosmic superhero battles.
All of this is why Black Adam #1 gets my strongest recommendation.