After the outstanding Batman: Under the Red Hood and the good Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, I was really looking forward to Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam. One of the most intriguing and complex anti-heroes in the DC Universe, Black Adam is one of my favorite characters. Unfortunately, this animated feature didn’t convey what makes Black Adam so interesting.
But first, let’s cover some positive features of The Return of Black Adam. For the most part, I loved the art. It’s very clean, bright, and cheery, which fits in with the nature of Captain Marvel (yes, his name is Captain Marvel, not Shazam). The characterization of Billy Batson/Captain Marvel is well done. You really get a feel for his purity and innocence. The voice acting is great all around, which is par for the course with DC animated features. That’s pretty much it for the positives.
One problem I had with the art was the fight scenes. Superman, Captain Marvel, and Black Adam are three of the most powerful characters in DC Comics. Every time one of them throws a punch, windows should shatter and tidal waves should form in the ocean. The final fight scene between Neo and Agent Smith in The Matrix Revolutions is what a battle involving these three characters should be like. Instead, it was kind of like pro-wrestling with high-wire flying. The artists and animators did not illustrate the awesome power these three characters wield.
My minor gripe with Black Adam’s portrayal was his accent. He sounded Eastern European. In the comic books he hails from the fictional North African country of Kahndaq, which is supposed to be between Egypt and Israel. I’ve met people from Egypt and Israel. None of them sounded like Russian spies, which is that the Black Adam in this feature sounded like.
My major problem with Black Adam’s portrayal was its simplification. In the comics, he has been a villain and a hero. He has been in the Injustice Society and the Justice Society. He’s a beloved god-king in Kahndaq, but viewed as a severe threat to global stability by most other nations. He has a code of honor. He has suffered tragedies that have given him a harsh view of justice. He’s not really a bad guy or a good guy, but he’s done heroic and heinous things. In The Return of Black Adam, he’s just an evil dick. He was appointed Earth’s protector by the wizard Shazam and was corrupted by power — no complexity, no layers, and no depth. It’s so sad that Black Adam is nothing more than an evil dick in this movie.
I was disappointed immediately after watching Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam. After an hour or so passed, I kept thinking about one of Billy Bob Thornton’s lines in Bad Santa: “They can’t all be winners, kid.” After so many excellent and very good DC animated features, I suppose it was time for a dud. I just wish it didn’t involve one of my favorite characters in the DC Universe.