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

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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…”

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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?”

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“…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:

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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.

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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9 Comments

  1. September 23, 2007 at 4:31 am — Reply

    1) You know, I can recall that when I described the plot of this series in the review for Countdown #47 – Uh…Black Adam’s miniseries charts his ‘Adventures’ between World War We Can’t Stop This One Guy and Countdown – Stephen referred to it as a waste of time mini-series that is anticlimactic and no one will read. So…things have changed.

    2) Had I written this series, it would be a Marvel Crossover one-shot, consisting of one scene: Teth-Adam and Bucky both waiting for a Bus, Teth reading a paper…

    Teth: “You see, friend, the Americans don’t want to get to the moon. They’re just after Sputnik.”

    Bucky: “Gccchhh…”

    Teth: “Oh, sorry -”

    *FA-ZAM!*

    Black Adam: “I mean, um, Thanks?”

  2. Randallw
    September 23, 2007 at 6:15 am — Reply

    Being a bit of a rules lawyer here, but Faust says every time Teth transforms to Black Adam Isis’ bones become more fragile. So maybe he gave the power to Black Mary so he can use her perhaps and all the time Isis’ bones aren’t being weakened. I know it’s twisting words but who knows exactly how magic works :)

  3. Brad
    September 23, 2007 at 8:33 am — Reply

    My goodness Black Adam is quickly becoming my favorite character in the DCU. Although it makes me wish he was in the other Great ongoing DCU story.

    Could you imagine Adam wearing a Yellow Sinestro Ring?

    That kind of image could give me chills.

  4. September 23, 2007 at 10:41 am — Reply

    Great review with excellent image choices. I was also annoyed with Countdown stomping all over the Black Adam mini-series before it was even released. With the outcome revealed, I thought this series would be a huge let down and almost didnt pick it up. I’m glad I decided to grab that first issue because this is one of the best series I’ve read in a while and I honestly can’t wait to see what happens next.

    That bungie jumping scene was awesome and one of my favourite scenes two weeks back when this book came out. Glad you took the time to do a focus on this book even though it’s been out a few weeks now. Deserves every bit of praise you can give it and all the exposure it can get.

    Kirk Warren
    The Weekly Crisis
    http://www.weeklycrisis.com

  5. Mike
    September 23, 2007 at 1:25 pm — Reply

    You all really thought Black Adam would EVER get a happy ending? I mean, the ending revealed in Countdown really surprised you? Black Adam’s happiness can only be built up so it’ll be much more tragic when he actually goes insane and riping people in half (otherwise, no one would care what the man does).

  6. jman
    September 23, 2007 at 6:45 pm — Reply

    I have to admit, I prefer seeing Adam as an anti-hero God on Earth, who would ally himself with villians(since none of the heroes trust him enough anyway). A married family man never really stuck with me. I liked him as the 2000 year old ruler of Kandaq. I was happy that he settled down, but he still needed to be a badass(protecting your home AND new-found family…now that’s a reason to rip folks in half!!). And Countdown really took the wind out of his sails by revealing how this mini is going to end. But, having seen the ending, it’s all about getting to that ending now.

  7. Reggie L
    September 23, 2007 at 9:58 pm — Reply

    if a yellow ring found Black Adam, i think he would destroy the ring and go back on his quest or focus. a similar reaction like Batman, but more violent. Adam is his own man and does not submit to other authority unless they can provide him a means to his own ends (secret society eg) and sinestro corps would infinge on his goals (he does not live to create fear).

  8. Ninja Charro
    September 24, 2007 at 9:58 am — Reply

    I really like how DC is showing the “Human side” of super villains, and Black Adam its the best example of it. However, I have a thing to complaint about. Why you didn’t show the “Alive” page of the last issue? It was very um … er.. fun to see a DC character becoming a craving cannibal just as it happens in Marvel universe with the Marvel zombies and The Ultimate Hulk.
    Despite of this, I loved the issue.

  9. Brent F.
    September 24, 2007 at 11:58 am — Reply

    Faust got himself stuck in a tower when he tried to trick Ralph. I don’t think it’s wise of him to try and trick Black Adam, a man who will not think about killing him… because he’s just going to do it without giving it a thought.

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