The many “Year of the Villain” one-shot comics arriving across the past several months have been uneven in execution, but never dull. Comics like The Riddler and Black Mask have recontextualized familiar villains within DC continuity, using Lex Luthor’s gifts to provide a new twist. Others, like Joker and Lex Luthor, have crumbled under greater ambitions than a single issue could contain, but still managed to provide readers plenty to talk about. So, even as Black Adam: Year of the Villain #1 remains far from the worst of this collection, it’s already the most forgettable. Unlike any of the other installments thus far, it focuses its efforts away from its titular character toward explaining various tie-in efforts. The result is familiar in the dullest of fashions with no clear goals, a poorly-conceived twist, and plodding action sequences.
Black Adam #1 centers on a battle with the Infected Shazam, a version of Billy Batson featuring the same motifs as the Batman Who Laughs who was first introduced in Batman/Superman #1. While it’s not difficult to understand that the Shazam who arrives in Black Adam’s country of Kahndaq is a generically evil replication of one reader’s are familiar with, his purpose and relationship with Black Adam are waved away as being unimportant. Despite years of history and closely woven origins, Shazam is delivered as a generic antagonist for Black Adam to repel in these pages. It’s a choice that both ignores plenty of potential and provides no direction to go after these two titans clash.
That clash has resulted in some of the most memorable action sequences across DC Comics history, whether Shazam and Black Adam are operating independently or together. Here it merely delivers a rote smackdown like something from WWE with less believability. Instead forms are crafted from similarly broad lines that fail to differentiate themselves from dozens of similar superhero brawls each month. The colors of lightning and shapes of faces are similarly lacking in definition or direction. Without any excitement or twists upon a familiar pair of nemeses, there’s nothing notable to encourage readers to continue.
All that’s left to distinguish Black Adam’s story are his responsibilities as a ruler—ideas delivered entirely in the form of bromides—and his lessons are delivered in a similarly paltry fashion. A twist in the action is set up in the first few pages of the issue, yet manages to build no tension due to a lack of investment either in this story’s eponymous anti-hero or the people he claims to protect. This is a story that brushes past concepts of nationality and faith as though their mere acknowledgement might distill some sense of importance in what is occurring; it never does.
Black Adam: Year of the Villain #1 is defined by events occuring in other superhero comics already lacking substance. Characters are facsimiles derived from five sentence bios and their battles are pulled from other stories with similar problems.There’s no excitement to be found in a confrontation without any clear grounding or visceral thrills. This is a product mandated by other publishing initiatives and that ought to be obvious for any reader. A vague sense of competence doesn’t make the delivery of this purposeless story worth any readers time.
Published by DC Comics
On October 23, 2019
Written by Paul Jenkins
Art by Inaki Miranda
Colors by Hi-Fi
Letters by Tom Napolitano
Cover by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, and Alex Sinclair