Warning: Contains spoilers for Black Adam!Black Adam has caused a major power shift in the DCEU, but in a radically different way than was expected. Black Adam finally arrived, bringing with it Dwayne Johnson’s anti-hero, the Justice Society of America, and Henry Cavill’s returning Superman to the big screen after years of development and behind-the-scenes struggles. As part of Black Adam’s marketing, The Rock heavily emphasized the promise that the « hierarchy of power in the DC Universe is about to change, » and it is safe to say that that promise has been fulfilled by the time of Black Adam’s crowd-pleasing end-credits scene.
However, the manner in which DC’s hierarchy of power has shifted is considerably different and more expansive than what The Rock’s assurances seemed to be at face value. While the sheer strength of Black Adam and Superman and what a clash between them would look like appeared to be what The Rock was referencing in his hyping of Black Adam, that is only half of the equation. The other half lies in how factionalized the world could soon become by what Black Adam and Superman represent.
Black Adam Is Confined To Kahndaq (But Won’t Remain There)
Black Adam’s end-credits scene shows Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) warning Black Adam via hologram that he is not leave the borders of Kahndaq, assuring him that she can send “people who aren’t from this world” to stop him. Superman then arrives, telling Black Adam “It’s been a while since anyone’s made the world this nervous. Black Adam, we should talk” in an implicit warning of his own. Despite the insistence of Waller and Superman that he remain in Kahndaq, the chances of Black Adam actually honoring their demands are near non-existent.
Aside from the obvious storytelling restrictions such a scenario would create, Black Adam has never been one to acquiesce to anyone’s orders of pacifism or restraint. As he assures the Justice Society in the film, “I kneel before no one”. With Amanda Waller’s stern warning to Black Adam inevitably falling on deaf ears, it won’t take long after he violates her house arrest for Superman to arrive to put a stop to his activities. This is also where The Rock’s assertion of the DC Universe’s hierarchy of power changing begins to become more clear.
Superman & Black Adam Embody Different Forms Of Justice
Throughout Black Adam, the Justice Society is constantly at odds with Black Adam, having been deployed to Kahndaq with the knowledge of the damage he inflicted previously after being overcome by his rage. The Justice Society also balks at Black Adam’s comfort at killing Intergang’s soldiers, with Hawkman (Aldis Hodge) in particular objecting to his methods. Meanwhile, Superman embodies the same kind of clean-cut code of heroism that the Justice Society abides.
With Henry Cavill’s Superman finally back in the DCEU, he and Black Adam standing as opposing figures with equal power levels also adds something completely unexpected to the situation. The people of Kahndaq, long familiar with Black Adam’s ancient legend, regard him as their champion by the end of the movie. Adrianna Tomaz (Sarah Shahi) herself fervently argues on Black Adam’s behalf, admonishing the Justice Society of the freedom he has single-handedly granted Kahndaq after decades of occupation. With a figure like Superman an established hero long before Black Adam’s revival in Kahndaq, the image of heroism each has espoused is what sets up their conflict.
How Black Adam Changes DC’s Hierarchy Of Power
While The Rock’s mission to set up Superman and Black Adam’s rivalry has finally been achieved, the real shift in power that he has long teased lies in how mankind responds to Black Adam’s arrival as a contrast to the hero Superman has been. Superman’s appearance calls back to Batman v Superman in his allusion to how he was once viewed by mankind. Black Adam is poised to have the same effect on the world, but in a new way with more and more people in Kahndaq and beyond coming to favor Black Adam’s approach as a crusader for the oppressed who gets results.
Though Waller might want to keep Black Adam imprisoned in Kahndaq, that mission is going to get harder with public support for Kahndaq’s champion shifting increasingly in his favor. Superman acting as a roadblock to Black Adam is likely to create an even bigger rift in how humans view metahumans, splitting the world between those who favor Superman and those who back Black Adam. The Justice League and Justice Society will likely just fuel that divide even more, with large fractions of the world coming to see the Man of Steel and his allies as superpowered cops handcuffing the hero they feel can free them, even as others champion the example of pure justice Superman seeks to represent. Though Superman and Black Adam each wield incomparable might, the factions of humans falling behind each is bound to set up a kind of metahuman arms race, the world divided on which of the two they believe is the real hero.
Simply be existing on Earth simultaneously, Superman and Black Adam are world-changing pillars of power that humanity either see as saviors or as potential conquerors. Through his heroism and return from death, the Man of Steel has successfully gained the trust of the world at large. At the same time, Black Adam and Superman’s impending battle puts Kal-El in a position where that trust might begin to waver again among Earth’s human population due to the debate over Superman’s example of inspiring hope through heroism and Black Adam’s extremely inflexible belief in retributive justice. With Kahndaq clearly backing their champion by the end of Black Adam, the real shift in power in the DC Universe will be in the support Black Adam and his methods can gain outside of Kahndaq’s borders as a challenge to Superman and Earth’s other metahuman heroes. Even still, Superman surely is not going to let Black Adam slaughter villains with abandon without a fight, and if Black Adam’s end-credits scene is any indication, other DCEU heroes could also return to assist Superman in challenging Kahndaq’s ruthless defender.