Friday, April 06, 2007

Deaths in the Family (DC comics)
52 #44 When: May 2007
Why: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid How: Keith Giffen & Eddy Barrows

The story so far...
Black Adam's nation of Khandaq has been plunged into a plague of darkness, and Adam's young protégé, Osiris, believes his committing a murder with the powers granted to him is what's responsible.

Convinced to give-up his powers, which free him of his condition as a cripple, Osiris is quickly slaughtered by Sobek, a crocodilian creature he rescued from the sinister mad scientist, Dr. Sivana.

Sobek reveals himself to really be Yurrd the Unknown, member of "The Four Ages of Dread Of Apokolips in it's anguished, bloody morning."
The NEW Monster Society, and remaining three horsemen of Khandaq's apocalypse reveal themselves, and launch their sleeping attack on Black Adam.

Previous Form:
Black Adam, Isis, The Four Horsemen: None of these characters have been featured previously on the site.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Black Adam 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Black Adam 4 (Tactician)
Speed: Black Adam 5 (Super Speed)
Stamina: Black Adam 6 (Generator)
Agility: Black Adam 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting Ability: Black Adam 7 (Born Fighter)
Energy Powers: War 6 (Mass Destruction)

Okay, this was a tough one, because the [Four Horsemen] characters, as far as I know, are new to 52, so there isn't a lot of discussion to be had.
Certainly the nature of their powers and the way they are presented paints a fairly clear picture of their capabilities, but the minutia may be lost here.

The tape is deceptive, because while Black Adam's broad strengths paint a fairly encompassing picture, the four Monster Society pawns have a comparable bredth of strengths that simply aren't as potent as Black Adam's.

Each character possesses impressive physical strength. Famine (Yurr) appears to be the only character without a strong, unique twist to the rest of abilities. Rather than possessing any famine themed abilities, he's simply a reptilian with a penchant for eating things, and an insatiable hunger.

In the previous issue he revealed his true nature by devouring Osiris once he had reverted to his crippled form, which brings us to this issue, where the powers granted to Osiris return to Black Adam, and alert him of the danger.

Pestilence (Zorrm) possesses various chemical based attacks, with a backpack/blaster combination, as well as oral means of gas projection. He is potentially the weakest of the group, while also being the most grotesque and subversive.

War (Roggra) is a lumbering mechanical looking creature with various mount weapons, and a distinct theme of modern weaponry. There's a very tanky motiff, there.

Death (Azraeuz) appears somewhere between an angel and an Egyptian Anibus style creature, and as we will ultimately learn, he is capable of drawing dark strength from the deaths of others. [More on that in The Hammer -- Mumbling Mike]

The strength in numbers certainly gives this new Monster Society a leg up on the competition, but Black Adam is truly an impressive character. Arguably more powerful than his cheesy counterpart, Captain Marvel, Teth-Adam (as he's also known) is far more ruthless a character, despite his noble intentions.
He will make no bones about killing in situations of ambiguity, let alone with the onslaught of engineered creatures designed to destroy him.

It should also be noted that he has another young companion, Isis, a slave woman who was offered to him by Intergang, and ultimately proved to be an outspoken and courageous young woman named Adrianna Tomaz, worthy of the power of Isis.

Isis has comparable powers to Adam himself, if a little less potent, but also properties for healing, and limited control or influence over the weather.

As far as caling a winner here, it's hard to deny the numbers advantage possessed by the Four Horsemen. Black Adam is an incredibly compelling and powerful character, and if anyone's going to overcome odds like those, he's probably a good bet. The powers of Shazam may just have the edge here.

The Math: Monster Society (Total) Black Adam (Average)
The Pick: Black Adam w/ Isis

What went down...
Adam and Isis stand confronting Famine, as the remaining members of the Four Horsemen descend upon them. Death is the first to strike, swinging his giant golden scythe into the grip of the SHAZAM powered ruler.

The two mighty beings smash through the balcony roof of the Kahndaqi palace, but despite being on the bottom, Adam has strength enough to throw the larger Death beast off with a thundering right hook.
Famine descends quickly, wrapping his taloned finger tips around Adam's face.
"Let me tell you how I ate Osiris! How his organs popped in my mouth like fresh grapes..."

Osiris, having been snatched up by Pestilence, drops into the palace through the hole left by Adam and Death. She witnesses Teth-Adams firey rage first hand.

Adam takes Famine's snout in his hands, and as a tear makes it's way from the creature's eye, he pulls open it's jaw much farther than it should ever be. Blood sprays, "These are not men, Isis. Sobek said it himself. They are monsters."

War lumbers, as Black Adam points him out as next on the list. However, a hail of bullets interrupts his charge. He's pushed back, taking less damage than his residence, before War blows him off his feet with an explosive.

"I have the power of all the world's soldiers and missiles and bombs. Those are my gods."

Osiris continues her tustle with Pestilence, warned by her preternatural relationship with nature that he is a creature made of little more than virii and bacterium. It was he who brought disease and misery to the people of Kahndaq.

The creature stares through the single red orb on it's forehead, and sprays forth a green mist of goo and ill. Isis springs forth various tendrils of growth to protect her, as she slides clear of the muck.

The paths of the heroes converge. As Adam reels from the gunfire attack of War, Pestilence is throw into the mix by the greenery, before being swept into an isolated tornado along with War.

Isis' blood runs cold as Death returns to face the Black Adam family.
Death's penetrating gaze stuns both. A zealous War snatches Adam and tosses him out of the building, announcing himself the instrument by which Death's decree of doom will be dealt. Adam smashes the head from the statue of his long fallen wife as he comes to a painful halt.

War is on him almost immediately, grinding his head into the ground with the mechanical mess of engineering and metal that poses for a hand.
Adam continues to be tossed and pounded by the creature of War, while Isis finds herself victim to a full blast from Pestilence's mounted gun. Pestilence surrenders her to Death, "I have spread my disease across her and inside her."

Staring down at the stone face of his first wife, Adam is asked the question, "Will you beg for your life as well?"
It serves to inspire his rage. It gives him the strength to plunge his fist deep inside the chest of the robotic monstrosity of War.

It is difficult to say whether they are tears of mourning, or of unbridled hate, but as he rips away at the creature, Adam returns the favour, "Will you? A being who embodies all the war in the world does not impress me."

Blood gushes from Isis' mouth, and tears from her eyes, also, as she fades further and further still from life. Death lifts her by the chin with the tip of his scythe.

Pestilence' grin turns to a scowl.
Black Adam blasts his head off with the shoulder mount cannon taken from War.

Death swings his large scythe, scathing at the side of the Kahndaq ruler. Adam does away with the weapon, and uses his fists to shatter the teeth from Death's skullish head.
It is not enough to stay the beast's attack. He palms Black Adam's head, but still clinging desperately to life, Isis reaches a benevolent hand outward.

She calls to the Earth, asking it to spew forth it's moltenous lava so as to seperate the monster from her husband.
Death is jetted skyward in stream of lava and smoke, choosing to flee from further assault rather than face down the elements themselves further.

Adam cradles his queen in his arms. She confesses a new understanding for the bleakness she had discouraged. In these horseman she understands the great evils and digusting crimes man would commit, and she is angered. She stems Adams' faith in her, and the good she claimed. Dying in his arms, she asks for exactly what Black Adam can provide.

And with that vengeful scorn, lightning descends upon the ruler.
The power of Isis returns to him, and the sky begins to weep.
Black Adam is alone, but not without purpose.

The hammer...
Your winner, despite great loss -- Black Adam.
Hopefully I captured the battle with suitable drama, despite being somewhat tired by Easter festivities, and the general late we find ourselves in. Alas, we move on!

Like a lot of people, I've been well and truly been converted into absolutely loving Black Adam. The obvious aside, the character is regularly compared to Marvel's Namor, and I can't help but feel the character Black Adam has benefitted from, starting really with Geoff Johns and David Goyer's run on JSA, is exactly the kind of thing Marvel hasn't done with their character.

As I mention, the Black Adam reneissance dates back to JSA where he joined the team under the pretenses that he'd changed, but as we saw throughout the issues, he was detaching himself to ultimately form a much more hard-edged team. That progress culminated in the thoroughly awesome Black Reign JSA/Hawkman crossover story, and has really continued ever since.

As we discussed previously [52 #42], I came to the 52 party just as the business was kicking off, so I have a pretty narrow field of reference. Even so, I well and truly jump on the bandwagon toting Black Adam as the best portion of the series.

Perhaps the only concern coming out of this is the future of the character. He's crossed a pretty big line in the issues that follow this one, and that's not generally something you see from DC comics. With promotions for the upcoming World War III featuring the character prominently, you have to wonder...

I'd like to think calmer voices of reason would protect the character from such a fate, and I'd put my money there, but you just never know. It wouldn't be the first time we saw a character built-up, if only to be knocked down.

I am trying to move through here pretty quickly, but I have to draw some attention to one little note. I realise Radiohead is one of those groups depressed teens like to attach to various scenes of pathos or drama, but I have to say, despite the slightly cartoony take on the violence, if I were going to cut this comic into a music video -- Thom Yorke - Analyse.
If you've got the book and the track, I challenge you to have a paced flick through, and fill-in the gaps of motion with your imagination.

Since we're reflecting the times as they are somewhat, you can expect a follow-up to the Black Adam action in the coming months, even though they're not the easiest reviews/summaries to write. I just think the character deserves it.

Actually, also, it's just dawned on me that we've had an awful lot of killing in the last few entries.
To anyone worried we might be turning the competition too far in the direction of a bloodsport, I offer sincere reassurance. Only Wednesday's usual dose of What if? books will be soaked in the blood of your childhood icons. Those, and maybe event books written by Brian Bendis.

All the best, and a belated Happy Easter to all concerned.

The Fight: 5.5 The Issue: 5.5

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