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REVIEW: DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS BLACK ADAM
By Thomas Wheeler

I've always liked Black Adam. For one thing, he has a good visual. He is one of Captain Marvel's longtime enemies, and he looks it. His uniform is extremely similar to Captain Marvel's own, except it's black. The two character do have similar backstories, at least in-so-far as their encounters with a certain wizard named Shazam is concerned.

For myself, I rather like the imagery, this sort of "negative Cap". Lex Luthor is certainly Superman's most ardent foe, but he doesn't look like a negative version of Superman. The Joker is easily the Batman's most relentless enemy, but he doesn't look like a flip side of Batman. Black Adam - well, you know whose enemy he is right at first glance.

And, he's almost managed to a hero on occasion. Let's see what Wikipedia has to say about him:

Black Adam was created in 1945 by Otto Binder & C. C. Beck for Fawcett Comics. Originally created as a one-shot villain for the Marvel Family team of superheroes, Black Adam was revived as a recurring supervillain after DC Comics began publishing Captain Marvel /Marvel Family stories under the title Shazam! in the 1970s. As originally depicted, Black Adam was a corrupted ancient Egyptian predecessor of Captain Marvel, who found his way to modern times to challenge the hero and his Marvel Family associates.

Since the turn of the 21st century, Adam has been redefined by DC writers Jerry Ordway, Geoff Johns, and David S. Goyer as a corrupt antihero attempting to clear his name. Featured roles in comic books series such as JSA, Villains United, Infinite Crisis, and 52 have elevated the character to a level of prominence in DC Comics.

The original Fawcett Comics version of Black Adam, which appeared only once during the original Fawcett run of Captain Marvel comics, is an ancient Egyptian prince named "Teth-Adam", who is chosen by the wizard Shazam to be his successor.

When Adam says the magic word "Shazam", he is transformed into a superpowered being, Teth Adam (literally translating into "Mighty Human"). Possessing the same powers that Captain Marvel would later be granted, Adam is soon corrupted by the vastness of his powers. Deciding that he should rule the world, Adam overthrows the pharaoh and assumes the throne. An angry Shazam gives his errant champion a new name -- "Black Adam" -- and banishes him to the most distant star in the universe.

Adam spends the next 5000 years flying back to Earth. By the time he makes it back, in 1945, Shazam has appointed three new champions to take his place: Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, and Captain Marvel Jr. Adam does battle with the trio, known as the Marvel Family, but since all are equally invulnerable, the fight goes on and on without resolution. However, the non-powered Marvel Family member Uncle Marvel tricks him into saying "Shazam," reverting him to Teth-Adam.

Black Adam appeared throughout the 1970's and 1980's, and was subsequently overhauled in The Power of Shazam! graphic novel by Jerry Ordway in 1994. In that story and the subsequent Power of Shazam! ongoing series, Adam is a deadly and evil adversary for Captain Marvel.

In this revised origin, Teth-Adam is the son of the _ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II, and impresses one of the high priests, the wizard Shazam, with his good deeds. The wizard gives Teth-Adam the power to become the superhero Mighty-Adam by speaking the name "Shazam", an acronym for Mighty Adam's powers, although the acronym represents various Egyptian mythological deities, unlike Captain Marvel's largely Greco-Roman sources.

Mighty Adam serves as Egypt's champion for many centuries, but becomes corrupted by the charms of a mysterious woman, revealed to be Shazam's evil daughter Blaze in disguise. Adam is convinced that he and his mistress should rule Egypt, so he kills the Pharaoh and appoints himself ruler. Shazam learns of this treachery and strips Adam of his powers, encasing them in a mystical scarab necklace. Adam's depowered body rapidly experiences the aging process that the magic had staved off, and the former hero withers away into a dried cadaver in seconds.

Shazam buries both the body and the scarab in the tomb of Ramesses II, where he plans for it to remain for all eternity. In death, the former hero is referred to as "Khem-Adam" ("Black Adam"). Disillusioned by what he perceived as Adam's betrayal, Shazam waits several millennia before appointing a second champion to fight evil in his name.

Thousands of years later, during the late 20th century, an unscrupulous archaeological aide named Theo Adam finds himself assigned to the Malcom Expedition, financed by the Sivana Foundation to excavate the tomb of Ramesses II. Adam uncovers Khem-Adam's tomb in a secret passageway, and leads his superiors, C.C. Batson and his wife Marilyn, to the discovery. Upon first sight of Khem-Adam's scarab, Theo Adam becomes obsessed with the artifact, and kills both Batsons in order to steal it. Escaping Egypt, Theo Adam soon made his way back to America.

The Batsons' son, Billy, has been left behind in the United States, and is drafted by Shazam to become the wizard's second champion, Captain Marvel. When Theo Adam first encounters Captain Marvel, he notes both Marvel's identical appearance to C.C. Batson and the lightning-bolt insignia on Marvel's chest that had also decorated Khem-Adam's tomb. Adam therefore has a revelation, and realizes that he is a reincarnation of Khem-Adam. Grasping his stolen scarab, Adam speaks Shazam's name and is transformed into the superpowered Black Adam. Black Adam reveals himself to Captain Marvel as the Batsons' killer, and the two battle. Captain Marvel emerges victorious by snatching Adam's scarab, and therefore his power, away from him. Marvel brings Theo Adam to Shazam, who wipes Adam's memory and takes away his voice, so that he can not access his powers - a solution that obviously proves temporary.

Although Adam appears during the Power of Shazam! ongoing series' first year of publication as a villain, towards the end of the series' run, Adam returns and announces that Black Adam and Theo Adam are separate personalities. Black Adam stands trial again for the murders of the Batsons, and is acquitted when it is revealed that his fingerprints do not match those of Theo Adam's.

The reformed Black Adam is still vulnerable to his murderous host's influence, and he attacks the Justice Society of America under Theo Adam's control in JSA #6 (1999). In subsequent issues, Adam joins supervillain Johnny Sorrow's Injustice Society after Sorrow removes a malignant brain tumor from Adam's brain. Adam soon betrays Sorrow, and he and the JSA defeat the Injustice Society. Claiming to be free of Theo's evil influence again, a repentant Black Adam requests membership in the Justice Society, and is granted a probationary membership in JSA #21 (2002).

During his tenure in JSA, writers Geoff Johns and David S. Goyer redefined Adam's personality and background, focusing on the character's old-fashioned and militant ideals of justice, and his officious and strongly opinionated attitude. Despite this, he has stated on many occasions that he respects the Justice Society, particularly members such as Jay Garrick. Several other JSA members are shown to be skeptical of Adam's reformation; primary among them is Atom Smasher, who later becomes Adam's close friend.

Johns and Goyer used this story arc to slightly alter Adam's origin. The hero now hails from the fictional North African nation of Kahndaq, not Egypt, although he serves for the Egyptian prince Khufu (who is later reincarnated as JSA member Hawkman. The character of Blaze is completely removed from the origin story, and Adam's rage is described as having resulted from the conquering of Kahndaq (and the murder of his wife and children) at the hands of a magically powered supervillain named Ahk-ton, who is working with the notorious DC immortal Vandal Savage. Mighty Adam kills Ahk-ton during the struggle, and returns to Kahndaq to reclaim it by any means necessary, including murder. The wizard Shazam does not agree with Adam's actions, and robs Adam of his powers and kills him.

Black Adam is featured heavily in DC's 2005 Infinite Crisis crossover, primarily in the Villains United miniseries as a member of the Secret Society of Super Villains (which he only joins to protect Kahndaq from the Society).

Black Adam appears as a featured character in DC's weekly 52 comic book. Depicted as the violent protector of the nation of Khandaq, Adam kills several supervillains in public and on television to demonstrate his views.

In 52, we meet Adrianna Tomaz, a slave offered to Adam by Intergang as a token to curry his favor. Later, Adam uses a magical amulet, hidden on the scarab in which Shazam imprisoned him, to transform Adrianna into the superheroine Isis.

Four weeks later, he proposes, and the two are married under the auspice of Captain Marvel and the rest of the Marvel Family.

In 52 Week 23, Black Adam and Isis find Isis' brother Amon. Due to a failed escape attempt, Amon suffers near-fatal wounds. In order to save his life Black Adam bestows a portion of his own power on the boy, as Captain Marvel did for Captain Marvel Jr. Isis' brother then becomes a new addition to the Marvel Family under the name Osiris.

Osiris is accepted into the Teen Titans, but is later murdered by a seeming friend, a talking crocodile named Sobek, who reveals to Adam and Isis that he is Famine, the Fourth Horseman of Apokolips, one of four creatures created by Intergang to attack Black Adam. Adam swiftly disposes of Sobek, and does battle with the other three Horsemen. One of them, Pestilence, infects Isis with a deadly disease before Adam kills him and his partner War. A gravely ill Isis saves Adam from Death using her powers, and tells Adam with her dying breaths that she was wrong to try to change his views on justice, and that he should avenge both her and Osiris.

Seething with fury, Adam flies to the neighboring nation of Bialya, where Death has taken refuge. Adam slaughters everyone within Bialya - the government, the army, and the citizens - while hunting for Death, whom he defeats in battle, then tortures the creature into revealing the whereabouts of its masters. Intent on revenge, Black Adam flies to Oolong Island, hideout of a coalition of evil DC Universe scientists who created the Horsemen. However, the scientists subdue him and he suffers weeks of torture at the hands of Dr. Sivana, a longtime Captain Marvel foe. The Justice Society assaults the island, freeing Adam. Adam refuses to be taken into custody and once more flies off, seeking revenge for the death of his family.

Enraged to the point of madness, Black Adam launches a week-long attack against the heroes of the world, referred to afterwards as "World War III". Tearing across the globe, Adam attacks and defeats dozens of superheroes who attempt to stop him.

Adam eventually arrives in China, causing massive civilian casualties and billions of dollars in property damage when various superhumans get in his way. He attacks China, until the decimated Great Ten team of superheroes allows the Justice Society and a coalition of dozens of other American metahumans onto Chinese soil. Captain Marvel, though unable to take away Black Adam's powers, finds a way summon his magic lightning and use it to transform Adam instead of himself. Marvel also changes Adam's magic word from "Shazam" to a word he keeps secret to prevent him from ever changing back. Despite his defeat, Teth-Adam escapes, thanks to the intervention of his one-time ally Atom Smasher. He is left a mortal wandering the Middle East, unsuccessfully guessing at the word that will restore his power.

Black Adam's quest to gain his powers back between the events of 52 and Countdown was depicted in a six-issue miniseries entitled Black Adam: The Dark Age. Some time after his defeat in World War III, Adam sneaks into Kahndaq in disguise to retrieve the bones of Isis.

Adam takes Isis' bones to a Lazarus Pit in the Himalayas with the intentions of using it to resurrect her, but cannot complete the process without either using all of Isis' bones or her magical amulet, which has gone missing. He makes his way to Dr. Fate's tower looking for the amulet, and finds supervillian sorcerer Felix Faust, who was trapped in the tower by Ralph Dibny during 52. Faust agrees to help Adam locate the pieces of the amulet. He enacts a spell which allows Teth-Adam to transform into Black Adam by drawing from the residual magic remaining in Isis' bones

Adam is able to retrieve all of the pieces of Isis' amulet, although the attempted resurrection fails. Adam spends the entire quest reciting the names of streets, signs, locations, moods, and emotions in hopes of stumbling upon his new magic word, as it was altered by Captain Marvel. At the very end of his quest, Teth-Adam walks into a Fawcett City malt shop and orders a chocolate egg cream - only to find that "chocolate egg cream" is what Captain Marvel changed his magic word to.

In the comic, Adam actually finds this amusing, commenting to no one in particular that even as Captain Marvel, "Billy" is still very much a child, which honestly isn't a bad evaluation of how Cap has sometimes been portrayed.

Later, during a conflict with the Justice Society, Adam is convinced to return his power to Shazam, so that he could save Isis from her corruption. In turn, Shazam - who is furious at the misuse of the power he behested on his champions - takes the power from Isis, Billy and Mary, and transforms Adam and Isis into statues.

Black Adam's SHAZAM based powers grant him the stamina of Shu, the swiftness of Heru, the strength of Amon, the wisdom of Zehuti, the power of Aton, and the courage of Mehen. Additionally, Adam's senses are acutely sharpened. Black Adam has repeatedly been described as a warrior who had proven himself to be highly skilled even before he was given the power of Shazam.

So, how's the figure? Very nicely done, I have to say. The Black Adam figure uses many of the same "male hero" body molds as a good number of DC Universe Classics figures. This is not something I object to in the least. It provides the line with a good amount of consistency, something I appreciate.

The lower arms, which feature metallic gold ridged cuffs, are distinctive, as they are the same decorative cuffs used by the Captain Marvel figure. Additionally, Black Adam uses the same cuffed boots as the Captain Marvel figure.

The lightning bolt on Black Adam's chest is mildly different than Captain Marvel's. It is yellow, not gold, in color, and is somewhat shorter and a little broader. The Captain Marvel figure did not use the same upper torso as most of the figures, having a buttoned side to it, a classic element of Cap's costume, something not shared by Black Adam's. Captain Marvel's lightning bolt actually ran slightly below the mid-torso articulation point. Black Adam's does not.

Additionally, Black Adam's shirt is wider across the top than Cap's, and Black Adam does not have a cap. On occasion, Black Adam has been portrayed as having a cape, generally for ceremonial purposes when he ruled the nation of Kahndaq. This cape was a black version of Captain Marvel's own. Interestingly, the Justice League Unlimited figure of Black Adam did include a cape. But more often than not, Black Adam does not wear a cape, and this figure does not have it.

Black Adam has a superb headsculpt. The face looks stern, but not entirely as villainous as some. It almost looks like a moderately evil Captain Marvel. To what degree this was intentional I don't know. The hair is slicked back and has a "V" shape across the front. The black hair also has dark blue highlights in it, as if to accentuate the fact that it is indeed slicked back rather considerably.

Black Adam has very slightly pointed ears. This has never been explained, except as some sort of artistic indulgence. Interestingly, in his non-powered form, the pointed ears tend not to be present. Frankly, I think it's an interesting touch, and I am pleased to see that they are present on the figure. They're not massively pointed. We're not talking about Spock here. Black Adam's not going to pass himself off as a Vulcan. But there is a slight point to them, and I'm pleased that Mattel chose to include it on the figure.

Accessorywise, Black Adam does come with the scarab amulet that was mentioned as part of his origin story. I'm glad Wiki dealt with that, because I was rather wondering what the heck this thing was, and I'm probably a bit more knowledgeable about Black Adam than some more obscure characters in the DC Universe. It's well-designed, very nicely detailed and well painted, and is on an actual metal chain so that Adam can wear it around his neck if he so chooses.

Articulation on the figure is, of course, excellent. Black Adam is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.

Paint detailing on the figure is excellent, but admittedly limited. His face is very nicely done. I suspect this is the most complex point on almost any action figure, and generally, Mattel does a good job with this. Certainly they have here. But Black Adam's uniform is indeed, mostly black. The only real additional painted detail is the flesh-tone around his neck, the gold wrist cuffs, the lightning bolt, and the boots. He also has a yellow belt. Honestly, the amulet was probably harder to paint.

Any complaints? Just one. His legs, especially the right one with regard to outward movement, are rather loose, moreso than I'm comfortable with. It seems like a quality control issue that needs to be addressed. There has to be a good median point here that results in a sturdily-constructed figure whereby all of his parts move, but maintain a pose without difficulty, and aren't stuck. There has to be a way to achieve this goal, and achieve it consistently. An action figure line this impressive deserves no less.

Also, his lower right leg is a little - warped. I think this is due to the way the figure is positioned in the packaging. The "Collect and Connect" figure for this assortment is Chemo, a rather bulky figure, and Black Adam had to be posed in a crouched position to accommodate placing one of Chemo's legs in the same package. I don't think this did Adam any favors.

So, what's my final word here? Black Adam has seen a lot of time in DC Comics in recent years, and has become quite a notable character as a result. I doubt he'll remain in statue form for any length of time. Precisely what he'll be like when he recovers is anybody's guess, I suspect. But over recent years, he has become an increasingly fascinating and compelling character, someone with nearly the power level of Superman, and a more than conflicted nature, a nasty temper, and a penchant for considerable violence if he feels it's justified. Certainly he merited being added to the DC Universe Classics line, and I'm truly pleased to have him.

The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS figure of BLACK ADAM definitely has my highest recommendation!