Black Adam: The Dark Age #2 (of 8)

by

Or – “Mass Murderer Or Not, He’s Hardcore.”

BA10.jpg

For all the issues I may have with Countdown, one of the most disappointing is how badly it compares to last year’s weekly, 52. Even during the weeks that didn’t click, (and there were several) 52 at least gave us the feeling that there was a clear plan and that the various writing teams had the same game plan in mind. The real triumph wasn’t in elevating B-List characters or the weekly format, but the depth and perspective that the writers brought to Renee, Ralph, Buddy, Adam, Kori and, most of all, Black Adam. Adam’s journey from anti-hero to statesman to husband to raging force of nature was one of the most heartbreaking portions of 52, and the laissez faire “Oh, by the way, he has his powers back for a second, only to give them to Mary Marvel” in Countdown was (to my mind) a travesty. Now, months later, we’re finally finding out what happened to Teth-Adam in the missing time, and I’ll tell ya this for free: it’ll knock your teeth down your neck.

BA1.jpgPreviously, on Black Adam – The Dark Age: The death of Isis caused Adam to go more than just a little bit nuts. Let’s face it, he was screaming bat$#!+ bug*#&$ turbo-charged crazy with a side of Zehuti. Laying waste to the imaginary country of Bialya (best known, I believe, from early issues of Justice League International) Adam was stripped of his powers by Captain Marvel, and the word that triggered his transformation mystically changed. Still, Teth was not a man without resources, and gathered the remains of his followers to gather the remains of his wife. With Isis’ corpse stuffed into a backpack, Adam made a death-defying climb into the Himalayas, to find one of Ra’s Al Ghul’s Lazarus Pits. Placing her remains in the mystical fluids, Adam at first despairs that it’s been too long, but then his deceased wife rises from the pit, speaking his name. “Teth,” she says, her eyes filled with adoration. “My beloved…”

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

They kiss tenderly, and I have to say, I can feel every bit of Adam’s relief and love. It actually brings a tear to my eye for a moment, as Isis asks “How can I be here… with you… alive?” He explains that all that matter is that they’re back together, that they can once again hold each other. She tearfully remembers her death, and Teth shushes her. “A life of hope and love awaits… us.” He pulls his hand back from stroking her hair, to find it covered with blood. Adam realizes that he has failed, and the heartbreak on his face is terrible, as Isis continues marveling (no pun intended) that they’ve been reunited.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Oh, no… She continues to tell him that together they can weather anything, that his love has brought her back to life, before suddenly realizing that something is wrong. Pain courses through her, as her body quickly decomposes again, and Adam assures her. “I will take it away, my love. I will take all the pain away.” He places his knife at her breast, killing her to save her, and I realize how very far out of his time Teth-Adam really is. Meanwhile, in the Mojave, Mr. Terrific tries to follow a slim lead on Black Adam, with the help of Freddy Freeman. The newest avatar of Shazam has agreed to transform, that Mr. Terrific might find a way to track the mystical lightning that empowers them both…

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

This time, something does register, faintly, and Mr. T asks Freddy to head for the arctic circle. Having once again gathered the bones of his wife (say that out loud, and then try to question his tenacity) Adam climbs down the mountain again, before encountering a particularly vicious sasquatch who smashes him down, causing Isis’ bones to fall to a precarious ledge below. Faced with a much stronger opponent, with only his wits and his blade, Teth earns himself a Jules Winnfield wallet, by slashing the beast open, and TEARING OUT IT’S INTESTINES, rappelling down the sheer cliffside with them!

Two words: Holy. Moley.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

And I completely believe him, powers or no powers. Back in Gotham City, we find that Mr. Terrific isn’t the only genius searching for Adam, as Batman and Superman search every satellite image for any sign of the Black Marvel. Suddenly, the Bat finds a sniper, hiding in the shadows outside the Khandaq embassy in Gotham, and before he can end his sentence, Superman is in action. “Who are you, and WHAT are you doing here?” The killer responds by opening fire in Clark’s face, but all that does is cause ricochets and irritation…

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

The sniper plays it tough, refusing to talk, but Supes has done the good cop routine before. In seconds, they’re ensconced in the Batcave, and Supey’s pointy-cowled best friend shows him the counterargument. “Pictures of Teth-Adam in your pocket. Your M-107 trained on the Khandaqi embassy. And you were prepared to take your own life to protect whoever hired you… Needles to say, my patience is thin at best.” The sniper stammers that he knows his rights, and Batman snarls a menacing “Yes. You have the right to scream as loud as you like.” As Veronica Sawyer was once heard to ask, ‘Can you bleach out urine stains?’ Meanwhile, Teth-Adam makes his way back from the Himalayas, suffering desert heat, freezing cold, starvation, and committing dozens of murders in his quest to get to his goal: Salem, Massachusetts. The Tower of Fate. Flinging a piece of the shattered Rock of Eternity, he pierces the mystical veils and enters the tower that has no doors. His wish for a powerful sorcerer is granted, but (as you might expect in a place like this) not in the way he expected.

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Felix Faust, third-rate magician and first-class jackass, explains that Ralph managed to get the best of him, trapping both Felix and Neron in the tower for eternity, but Neron has already busted out. Adam trusts him just about as far as he can throw him (sans powers, no less) but Felix saves himself from being bisected by explaining that he can help him. “The Land of the Dead is open to me, and I know that you seek to bring back your beloved… What are you prepared to do, Teth-Adam, to realize your heart’s desire?”

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

“…and without the proper amount of residual power left in her bones… There will be NO way to resurrect Isis later.” Thus, the upshot is, he can have either revenge or he can have his love, but not both. Felix channels his power, using the residual power in Isis’ skeleton to rechannel the borrowed power Adam loaned to her. Or, to put it in a slightly more visual manner:

IMAGE REMOVED BY DC LEGAL DEPARTMENT

Somebody is about to get their head caved in. This issue is a pretty accurate representation of Adam himself: powerful, uncompromising, brutal, without mercy, but not entirely unworthy of your respect. For the second issue running, Teth-Adam has taken my breath away with his sheer testicular fortitude, and the lengths he’s willing to go to save his lost love are nothing less than awe-inspiring… The ‘rip-out-the-guts-and-go-sky-diving-with-them’ sequence alone made this issue a study in true awesome.

Still, we know WHERE Black Adam ends up, and his general demeanor when we last saw him seemed to be indicative that we won’t see a happy ending, so once again the twisty timelines of comics irk me. Still, writer Pete Tomasi manages to capture all the complexity and intensity that made Adam so fascinating in 52, and even adds some new twists to his character. Doug Mahnke’s art has always appeared quirky and a bit weird to me, but this issue is perfect. The beauty of Isis really comes through in the opening sequence, which makes her anatomically-correct disintegration seconds later that much more horrifying. Overall, the only weakness I can find (the whole “when in the heck does this actually happen?” question) is so pervasive right now that I can’t even dock the issue for it. Black Adam: The Dark Age #2 nails the landing for a damn fine 5 out of 5 stars.

5stars.jpg