All eyes are on Black Adam at DC Comics this year with the character set to debut on the big screen in October and played by none other than Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. However, Black Adam #1 from writer Priest and artist Rafa Sandoval may become the most intriguing new take on the character since his debut as a Captain Marvel villain way back in 1945. The new series takes Priest's idiosyncratic storytelling style to examine the manifold complexities contained in an immortal deity and Middle Eastern tyrant considering his place in modern geopolitics, with plenty of clever dialogue patter and stylish action sequences to accompany those big ideas. Black Adam #1 sets the stage to challenge readers' existing notions of the character and global and never fail to simultaneously entertain.
The debut of this 12-issue maxi-series picks up with Teth-Adam in his human form sitting before a Senate sub-committee addressing economic concerns between Egypt and Khandaq. Even as the story quickly jumps about to deliver readers an excellent infusion of action, featuring some cosmic villains and explosive exchanges, this first page remains the heart of the introductory chapter. The world around Teth-Adam is changing and both he and this series' creative team are interested in confronting the complexities of modern geopolitics. Despite a cascade of acronyms, the stakes and significance of these mundane conflicts are made relevant to readers and clearly woven into Black Adam's very identity.
Priest deftly navigates this approach to Middle Eastern politics by offering a situation with clear parallels to real world events, but avoiding any tone deaf analogs. Khandaq is presented as a much smaller country dominated, militarily and economically, by its neighbor Egypt (due to massive monetary support from the United States) despite shared historical populations. Revolutionaries seeking to supplant authoritarian regimes with democratic governance also play a key role. It's not difficult to see how this conflict might comment on the oppression of Palestinian peoples, but it does not seek to specifically comment on a single conflict. Familiarity with this region will certainly enhance a reader's experience, but the conflict itself is well-defined enough that any reader ought to appreciate the background of Black Adam's current challenges.
While Black Adam's role as both ruler and "superhero" are centered, it's the introduction of a new character, Malik White who plays the most pivotal role. Malik will strike a familiar chord for longtime readers of Priest's work; he's a wise-crack, fast-talking young man who sees the world as it is and is ready to strike back, often with surprising kindness. His speech is filled with references, but Priest's dialogue makes it easy to hear his words and appreciate his youthful wisdom. He also provides a useful lens into Black Adam's complex world – ready to guide readers into both political and superpowered intrigues.
Malik appears very young in Black Adam #1, despite nearly being an M.D., but this also serves to contrast him from the much, much older man who seeks him out. Sandoval's figures carry their emotions openly. While it is tempting to focus on the action elements of his work in this issue, including a radical throwdown with Darkseid, the expressions and responses amidst so many dialogue-driven sequences are more impressive in their surprising subtlety. These elements serve to guide readers ever deeper into a plot with unanticipated depths.
Black Adam #1 serves first as an introduction. Although its leading man has been around for nearly 80 years of comics, he has never been seen like this. Black Adam observes him as a terrifying god possessing immense power, an authoritarian capable of committing atrocities to preserve his power, and a deeply flawed man reckoning with centuries of mistakes. All of this is set against the backdrop of a world filled with mundane injustice. Malik White's clear eyed vision of that world is set to challenge all of this in fascinating new ways. While it's unclear exactly where this story will lead next, Black Adam #1 promises one of the most satisfying sagas to ever contemplate such a complex canonical figure. I, for one, cannot wait to discover where it leads next.
Published by DC Comics
On June 21, 2022
Written by Christopher Priest
Art by Rafa Sandoval
Colors by Matt Herms
Letters by Willie Schubert
Cover by Irvin Rodriguez