Black Adam came to HBO Max last Friday, after a possible box office disappointment for DC Comics' violent antihero movie. With Dwayne Johnson in the lead role, Adam beats up hero and villain alike after being released from a 5,000-year imprisonment, from the earliest scenes until the credits roll (the post-credits scene is comparatively chill).
"The arrival of megastar Dwayne Johnson in the DC universe, plus the long wait for the film's arrival, built Black Adam into feeling like an event," CNET's Richard Trenholm said in his review. "Now it's here, and it doesn't feel that momentous. Still, it's a big spectacular time at the movies, and what more do you want from the Rock?"
Much of this Shazam spinoff's conflict is caused by the friction between Adam and the Justice Society of America, which includes Doctor Fate (Pierce Brosnan), Hawkman (Aldis Hodge), Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo) and Cyclone (Quintessa Swindell).
However, there's one more hero waiting in the wings. Someone who appears only when Black Adam's first adventure is done, but it's a cameo that hits differently following a recent move by new DC Studios boss James Gunn.
Let's Shazam our way into the land of SPOILERS and talk about the post-credits scene.
The Man of Steel returns
With demonic champion Sabbac ripped in two and Black Adam firmly installed as Kahndaq's champion, Task Force X boss Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis, and last seen in HBO Max series Peacemaker) sends a drone to the temple Adam hangs out in so she can have a friendly Zoom with the antihero.
Unfortunately, Waller is incapable of being friendly and is furious about Adam escaping captivity in her base. She warns him to stay in Kahndaq or she'll send extremely powerful people who owe her favors to stop him.
Adam basically tells her to bring it on, so a flying being lands dramatically and a familiar caped silhouette emerges from the smoke.
Oh jeepers, guys, it's only Superman (Henry Cavill).
"It's been a while since anyone's made the world so nervous," the Kryptonian hero says. "Black Adam, we should talk."
What does it mean?
It sure looked like we were gonna get more of Cavill's version of Superman, and he was almost certainly going to fight Black Adam. However, Cavill later announced that the fight's been called off -- he won't be returning to the role after all.
Since the movie's release, parent company Warner Bros. Discovery said director James Gunn (responsible for The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker, as well as Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy series) and producer Peter Safran, will lead the reorganized DC Studios. On Dec. 14, Cavill said he met with the pair, who told him their interpretation of DC's cinematic universe needed a fresh interpretation of the character -- Gunn later confirmed this in a tweet.
"Among those on the slate is Superman," he wrote. "In the initial stages, our story will be focusing on an earlier part of Superman's life, so the character will not be played by Henry Cavill."
On Dec. 20, Johnson said on Twitter that Black Adam's movie adventure won't be part of the upcoming cinematic universe. However, he left the door open for the character's return in the future.
"James Gunn and I connected, and Black Adam will not be in their first chapter of storytelling," the actor wrote. "However, DC and Seven Bucks [Johnson's production company] have agreed to continue exploring the most valuable ways Black Adam can be utilized in future DC multiverse chapters."
The hard reboot makes sense, but Johnson is undoubtedly disappointed. He shared some of his ideas about how the battle between Adam and Superman would play out with YouTuber Jake's Takes in an interview prior to the movie's release.
"I think Black Adam lands the first punch. Now, I don't know if Black Adam lands the last punch," he said. "I can see things so clearly ... what that scene looks like, what that film looks like, what the next three films look like. Now, whether or not that comes to fruition -- that always helps, when you have that kind of clarity."
Cavill Supes debuted in 2013's Man of Steel and was last seen in Zack Snyder's Justice League (aka the Snyder Cut) in 2021, and that movie's ending left us in an awesome dark future where he'd been corrupted.
The director said that isn't canon, but both the Snyder Cut and Joss Whedon's 2017 version of the movie see the uncorrupted, present-day Superman joining Batman and Wonder Woman preparing to set up the Justice League.
The team also showed up in the finale of HBO show Peacemaker earlier this year, but Superman remained in the shadows in that appearance (he was played by Brad Abramenko). The character showed up in similar fashion in 2019's Shazam, where he was only seen from the neck down (and portrayed by Ryan Handley).
So Superman has never been too far from our screens. The character is iconic and archetypal enough that multiple versions could exist (and probably come together in a multiversal crossover like Spider-Man: No Way Home). Cavill will almost certainly return to the role someday, but we may never see the battle with Adam is it was originally planned.
What can the comics tell us?
Black Adam's long comic book history is complex due to DC's multiple continuity reboots, having started out as a villain back in 1945. He's become more nuanced in the decades since, shifting toward a dark antihero who often enters into uneasy alliances with the heroes (mostly because he's a violent, unpredictable and kind of a jerk).
That could have happened in the next movie as well -- Adam and Superman would likely have had an epic battle before reaching some kind of a truce. Despite his physical prowess, Superman is traditionally vulnerable to magic, meaning Adam would have had the advantage.
Shazam may have gotten involved too, since he and Superman are buds and Shazam's powers are derived from the same source as Adam's. Regardless, that character will show up in Shazam: Fury of the Gods, which is scheduled to hit theaters on March 17, 2023.