Fans are one week away from the big screen premiere of one of the most anticipated comic book films in the last two decades. Black Adam has been in development for a long time and it’s about to change everything. Moviegoers will be exposed to a side of DC that’s well off the traditional path of Superman, Batman or Shazam. Not sure what to expect? Then for this Weekend Escape, let’s dive into a pivotal Black Adam story, JSA: Black Reign.
Black Reign is the story of Black Adam and his team of super-powered individuals—some of whom were former members of the Justice Society of America—who vow to bring true justice to the world by inflicting their might and will on the populace, no matter what any government or superhero group has to say about it. When Adam leads a team made of Atom Smasher, Nemesis, Eclipso, Northwind and Brainwave to overthrow the despotic leader of Kahndaq and take over the country, they are met by the oppressed citizens as heroes and liberators. But there’s something to be said about such a fashion of heroism that violently bypasses international jurisdiction, especially when the means of that takeover involves murder. Right away the Justice Society (The Flash, Green Lantern, Dr. Mid-Nite, Dr. Fate, Mr. Terrific, Stargirl, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Shazam, Hourman and Wildcat) travel to Kahndaq to intervene, and an all-out battle ensues for the fate of the vulnerable country—and the world at large.
Let’s Talk Talent:
Geoff Johns leads this story, writing both the JSA series and the Hawkman series that crossed over with it. Both comics devoted three issues to Black Reign, meaning the story runs for six issues total. Johns’ love for these heroes is well known, with particular fondness for the Golden Age heroes of the Flash, Green Lantern and Hourman, the latter whom has an intriguing subplot involving both father Rex Tyler and son Rick. Johns is also interested in the JSA’s opponents, depicting them less as typical super-villains and portraying them more as antagonists who see themselves as purveyors of true justice. Each member of Black Adam’s team has suffered their own unique trauma, and Johns keeps that in mind when exploring what brings them to their violent ends.
Art is provided by the penciling superstars of Don Kramer on JSA and Rags Morales on Hawkman. Kramer’s subtle renderings keep the superheroics and high action grounded and realistic, while Morales’ artwork brings the bombast and explosive energy with each punch thrown or blast fired. They both do well to contrast the differing perspectives of the central characters. Kramer on JSA focuses mainly on Black Adam and his conviction to “save” the planet through his own methods. Rags Morales’ work on Hawkman zeroes in on Carter Hall’s intensity, with teeth-gritted fury drawn in every panel. But it’s not just Hawkman, as all the members of the Justice Society are given thorough treatment to leap off the page as larger than life, powerful and utterly heroic.
A Few Reasons to Read:
- This is a solid primer for the Justice Society, with plenty of its flagship members given ample moments to shine. From the rowdy Wildcat, to the seasoned Jay Garrick, to the team’s younger members, Stargirl and Shazam. It’s a diverse team that keeps the book lively and exciting.
- It’s the same with Black Adam’s group. Lesser-known characters like Nemesis and Brainwave are written with just as much flare by Johns. There’s even a surprise appearance by a longtime DC villain that hardcore fans will surely get a kick out of!
- Black Adam’s worldview on right and wrong puts the ethics and morality of superheroism under an interesting lens. Literally endowed with magical power, he refuses to let the conflicting priorities of modern society dictate what’s right and wrong in the world. Going from a villain to hero to a villain again, one really gains a three-dimensional window into a thoroughly developed character.
- The pacing of the story is brisk and taught, with twists and turns at the end of every chapter. Along with turmoil within the JSA team itself, the battle for Kahndaq is one that really tests the mettle of some of the mightiest heroes in the DC Universe, such as Power Girl and Dr. Fate.
Why It’s Worth Your Time:
If you are only interested in Black Adam and are unfamiliar with or uninterested in the Justice Society, this still works as a terrific introduction to Adam’s personality and powerset. Nearly a dozen heroes confront him over his actions, and that’s still not enough! If you are a JSA fan, however, this is one of their most memorable battles, full of fascinating complex characters and super-powered set pieces. With all of these super personalities, it’s a story that rarely lets up and leaves you wanting more, which is a pretty great start to exploring Black Adam!
JSA: Black Reign by Geoff Johns, Rags Morales, Don Kramer, Michael Bair and Keith Champagne is now available in a new Black Adam-themed collected edition. You can also read the entire story on DC UNIVERSE INFINITE.
Donovan Morgan Grant writes about comics, graphic novels and superhero history for DC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @donoDMG1.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Donovan Morgan Grant and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.