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What the Black Adam and the JSA comics may reveal about the future of the DCEU

(Image credit: DC)

DC FanDome's Black Adam panel revealed that the Dwayne Johnson-starring film will introduce not just Noah Centineo as Al Rothstein/Atom Smasher, but several other members of the Justice Society of America as well – Hawkman, Doctor Fate, and Cyclone, though actors in these roles remain unrevealed. 

(Image credit: DC)

These new details essentially imply that the movie will take Geoff Johns and David Goyer's 1999-2005 JSA comic book series as a close inspiration (not surprising, as Goyer was a writer on the DC Extended Universe's Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, among numerous other DC movies, and Johns was a producer of Justice League).

But that inspiration may hint at a dark future for both Atom Smasher and the JSA. In Johns and Goyer's JSA, Atom Smasher and Black Adam formed a fateful bond that drastically altered the lives of both characters - and led Black Adam to challenge the entire DC Universe.

That story may just be the key to bringing together all the disparate corners of the DCUE from The Suicide Squad to Justice League to SHAZAM!, finally fulfilling the promise of an MCU-like interconnectedness - and introducing a Thanos-level villain to take on and maybe unite everyone.

(Image credit: DC)

Through most of his history, Black Adam was a diabolical arch-enemy to SHAZAM!, sharing and abusing the power of the Wizard. But in Johns and Goyer's JSA, Black Adam reforms and joins the Justice Society after teaming up against them with the Injustice Society, who nearly kill the entire JSA until Adam's face turn.

Interestingly, this arc forms the basis for the first season of DC Universe/CW's Stargirl show.

Following Black Adam's reformation, he and Atom Smasher – a size-changing hero who started out as the teen hero Nuklon of 80's Earth-2 team Infinity Inc. and whose grandfather was the Golden Age atomic supervillain Cyclotron – first form a rivalry. But as Atom Smasher grows more violent and ruthless in his superhero tactics, killing the villain Extant, Black Adam comes to consider him a brother and nurtures his increasingly violent sense of twisted justice.

(Image credit: DC)

This relationship culminates in a trip to Black Adam's native country of Kahndaq, a fictional nation geographically located in the DC Universe's North Africa/Southwest Asia region. While in Kahndaq, Atom Smasher assassinates the dictatorial president who holds power, allowing Black Adam to become Kahndaq's leader, exercising his own brand of ancient rule. Atom Smasher and several of his former Infinity, Inc. teammates become Black Adam's enforcers, keeping the JSA out.

Ultimately, it's decided Black Adam can remain in power in Kahndaq, as long as he and his allies never leave the country. At first Black Adam agrees, but in the yearlong weekly limited series 52, Black Adam and his adopted family Isis and Osiris become global heroes – leading Amanda Waller to send the Suicide Squad to take them down.

(Image credit: DC)

Black Adam, Isis, and Osiris fight back – with Osiris killing a member of the Squad. Waller exposes Osiris's act, and Black Adam turns against the entire world and its heroes in a story titled 'World War III'.

Black Adam's subsequent rampage leads Atom Smasher to turn against him, helping defeat his one time mentor and eventually facing the consequences of his own crimes in Kahndaq.

(Image credit: DC)

It's a lot, right?

There are a few big takeaways to parse from both this saga, and from what Dwayne Johnson said at the end of his Black Adam FanDome panel, in which he issued a challenge to the Justice League.

"Flash, SHAZAM!, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman, things will never be the same. The power balance of the DC Universe is about to change."

Couple that with surprise guest Noah Centineo's statements that Atom Smasher will discover he's in over his head with the JSA and learn some things about being a hero from his encounter with Black Adam, and it's looking like the 2021 film may be the next big milestone in the DCEU, perhaps even setting Black Adam up to challenge the entire Justice League.

And according to The Rock, he's got the juice to do it.

George Marston

Newsarama staff writer who learned to read from comic books and hasn’t shut up about them since.