While Black Adam is poised to make his big screen debut this October, the character is currently facing a much grimmer fate in the comic books. Though Adam has progressed from committed supervillain and nemesis of the Shazam Family to reformed and reluctant member of the Justice League, the magical antihero is facing his own impending demise. However, Adam is not letting death hold the final word over his destiny and has chosen a successor, dubbed White Adam, in the new Black Adam maxi-series by Priest and Rafa Sandoval.
Let's lay out why Black Adam’s superhero redemption comes too late to save him from the mortal cost of sins past and who White Adam, the latest DC Universe hero to claim the magical power of Shazam, is. And though Black Adam has always been one to firmly cling to power, be it as the ruler of Kahndaq or as the source of his superhuman abilities, we'll also dive into the times when he has relinquished a portion of that power to create heroes bearing his legacy.
Black Adam’s Recent Redemption
For the past several years, Black Adam had steadily been moving away from his reputation as one of the DCU’s most fearsome supervillains to become something of a nobly flawed hero in his own right. After helping the Shazam Family defeat Superboy-Prime and lending vital support to the heroes during the 2020 crossover event Dark Nights: Death Metal, Adam was invited to join the Justice League as a full member in the ultimate gesture at his burgeoning redemption. And after the Justice League’s disastrous battle against Pariah and his Dark Army in the lead-up to the 2022 crossover event Dark Crisis, Adam was the sole survivor from the team to make it back to Earth.
However, Adam’s more notorious history has continued to loom over him, even as he joined the heroes of the Justice League which noticeably haunts Adam while he is on his deathbed. Adam is lured into an ambush staged by Darkseid that results in him being struck by the New God’s devastating Omega Beam. Though Adam isn’t vaporized on the spot, he is terminally infected with its corrosive effects as his body begins to gradually deteriorate. Remorseful over all the things he has done while realizing Kahndaq needs a new, powerful ruler, Adam decides he must select an heir to his immense power.
Who Is White Adam?
As Adam attempts to atone for his bloody past, he learns that a distant descendant from his bloodline lives in the Bronx. Malik White is a young medical student who is summoned to his ancestor’s deathbed, believing that his medical expertise is needed to save Adam’s life. However, it becomes clear that Adam has other plans for Malik, seeing him as the rightful heir to his legacy and the power of Shazam, unencumbered by Adam’s own problematic history.
Adam transfers his magical powers to Malik and dubs him “White Adam,” and as his heir, without the corruption that has tainted Teth-Adam’s legacy. Malik is initially reluctant to accept what his ancestor bestows upon him until being mortally wounded by one of the Kahndaqi royal guards and being forced to say the magic word and transform into White Adam and heal from his injuries. The full extent of Malik’s abilities as White Adam are currently unknown, but he resembles to Black Adam, complete with similar superhero suit – albeit aptly in white instead of in black – and crackling with electrical energy.
The Black Adam Family
Malik White is not the first person to inherit the powers of Black Adam as part of Teth-Adam’s move to extend his legacy. During Jerry Ordway’s 1994 reimagining of the Shazam Family as part of the post-Crisis of Infinite Earths DCU with the comic book series The Power of Shazam, Teth-Adam’s 20th century reincarnation Theo Adam is introduced. After realizing his connection to Teth-Adam, Theo claims the power of Black Adam through a magical scarab that housed Teth’s essence after it was trapped within by the Wizard Shazam. Reborn, it is eventually determined that Teth and Theo are completely separate individuals, despite their initial connection, with Theo established as the malevolent personality within Black Adam, corrupting Teth’s own flawed nobility. Eventually, Teth is able to fully assert control over Black Adam, apparently purging Theo’s influence for good.
During the 2006 weekly comic book series 52, Adam rescues Adrianna Tomaz from the criminal organization Intergang. Adrianna’s compassion helps soften Adam’s iron-fisted rule over Kahndaq, helping the despot rediscover his own humanity while the two gradually fall in love with each other. Adam decides to share his powers with Adrianna, who declares herself the mighty Isis as she becomes a superhero herself. The new couple saves Adrianna’s younger brother Amon from human traffickers, giving him a portion of their power to heal his wounds, transforming Amon into the superhero Osiris.
The newly minted Black Adam Family would prove to be a short-lived endeavor, with Osiris graphically devoured by the evil crocodile Sobek, a member of the supervillain team the Four Horsemen of the Apokolips. While battling against the Four Horsemen, Isis was mortally wounded and urged Adam to unleash his full vengeance on the world with her dying breath. This led to Adam reaffirming his villainous ways, cutting a destructive path around the world before being defeated and depowered by the Justice Society of America. This tragic instance would mark the last time Black Adam would willingly share his magical powers with others.
Even as the Shazam Family faces upheaval of its own, Adam continues to keep his power largely for himself, only willing to pass it along in the face of his imminent death to carry on his legacy.
Black Adam #2 is on sale now from DC Comics. The series is written by Priest, illustrated by Rafa Sandoval, colored by Matt Herms, and lettered by Willie Schubert. Black Adam #3 goes on sale August 16.