52 was a weekly series published by DC Comics starting in May, 2006. Because I had my 52nd birthday in late 2020, I thought it might be interesting (fun?) to examine this series for its 15th anniversary. I plan to post once a week about each issue. To read previous posts, click the link (52!).
“World War III”
Week 50, Day 2
The Marvel family battles Black Adam in Egypt.
Week 50, Day 3-5
The JSA search the world for Black Adam, and discover he’s in China.
Week 50, Day 6
Members of the Great Ten discuss what to do about Black Adam, because “he knows the part our leaders played in his betrayal”. August General-in-Iron orders the Great Ten to stop Black Adam.
Week 50, Day 7
The JSA, JLA, and other superheroes gather at the Chinese border. They have been warned by the Chinese government to not enter the country or the “missiles start flying”. Alan Scott tells them to be ready, “I’m betting they’ll need the Justice Society soon enough”.
Black Adam defeats the Great Ten one by one by, and August General-in-Iron reluctantly allows the assembled superheroes in to help.
Captain Marvel crashes into the Rock of Eternity after being expelled from the Egyptian gods’ presence: they refused Marvel’s plea to take away Black Adam’s powers. He’s asked, “And there’s no way to force the change?”
Steel is about to launch a nanite-filled missile at Black Adam when Booster Gold appears and takes it. He tells Steel, “it wasn’t gonna work anyway, trust me…”.
One by one, the American superheroes fall to Black Adam. Green Lantern declares that they need help and see members of Infinity, Inc. He implores them join him, but they flee in fear.
Zatanna contacts Flash with a plan, who then tells Green Lantern to haul Adam up in the air. Captain Marvel flies to intercept, calling the lightning, which he grabs and hurls it at Adam. There’s a massive explosion of light and Black Adam transforms into Teth-Adam and, as he falls, he yells “Shazam!” multiple times. He is caught by Atom Smasher.
The JSA search for Black Adam. The Flash yells, “Tell me we didn’t lose him after all that!”, and Atom Smasher says, “The light … the shockwave … no one saw exactly what happened”. Captain Marvel tells them that Adam is no longer a threat. He reveals that as the guardian of the magic, he was able to change Adam’s magic word and that Adam will never guess it. We see Adam walking the streets, saying one word after another.
T. O. Morrow arrives at a base in the Rocky Mountains and begins to examine Red Tornado’s head. He sees what Red Tornado saw “in the great beyond” and exclaims, “Oh God”. Then Booster Gold and Rip Hunter arrive, with the latter telling him, “Get your ass in gear, Prof. ‘Cause we’re already way outta time”.
Minor note: this cover is the only one of the series that does not have the “news ticker” at the bottom.
For much of this series, I have been on Black Adam’s side: he’s a reformed “bad guy” who fell in love, built a family, and tried to accomplish some good in the world. Then one bad day changes all of that and he slaughters a country (later, he’s referred to by one of the Great Ten as a “suffering, dying bull destroying everything in his path”).
While most of the superhero community would like nothing more than to lock Adam up forever, some are still trying to help him. On page one, Captain Marvel implores with Adam, “Stop this. Let me help you.” Marvel doesn’t yell or command, he is sympathetic despite Adam’s sins. Atom Smasher continues to defend Adam believing that Adam wouldn’t kill innocent children when we know he did. There’s also a two-page spread showing all of the superheroes charging Black Adam in the forefront — I tip my hat to the creators on this image because I have been conditioned to root for the underdog and this shows a defiant Adam waiting to confront his adversaries.
How are we as readers supposed to judge Black Adam based on all that has happened? While I think the creators and DC failed to adequately show the destruction and pain Black Adam caused on a human level (we see lots of structures being destroyed), I enjoy the narrative dichotomy of this character’s path, and god help me, I’m still rooting for the guy at the end! In fact, there’s a panel of him saying “Eternity” before he disappears into the crowd and that just elicited pangs of sympathy within me (good job creators!). It’s not that I want him to guess/discover the magic word and continue with his rage-filled vengeance but eventually find some peace. I’m very curious what happens next to this Black Marvel.