By Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Laurence Campbell, & Dave Stewart
Dipping into their enormous catalogue of previous material, Mike Mignola and company brought us Sledgehammer 44 from the pages of Lobster Johnson. Many months later and we now get to see this character (entity?) become more fleshed out, his place in the Mignolaverse now solidified. Lightning War has been highly anticipated given the incredible calibre of storytelling featured in the first 2-issue mini-series. So far, it’s off to a great start.
One of the great things about Mignola’s characters is their deep introspection often haunted by past tragedy. This is all too clear in Lightning War #1 as most of the issue explores what is left of the Hammer’s humanity. Having shut himself down and maintaining a social isolation, his consciousness runs wild through memories of the previous inhabitant. Laurence Campbell’s artwork in this particular section of the story is really unlike anything else typically found in a Mignolaverse book; the haunting eyes which gradually open up to a ghostly Redding leading into the cosmos painted a magnificent image full of depth with typically epic writing from Mignola and John Arcudi. There were also some more tie-ins to Lobster Johnson, in which the Sledgehammer character initially appeared. The major return of the Black Flame as he strikes at the allies was also captured really well, depicted as military video footage retrieved by this early incarnation of the B.P.R.D. The way this scene was delivered seemed to make it even more suspenseful and gripping.
Laurence Campbell’s illustrations, as already alluded to, were fantastic in this issue. Not only the more mystical and cosmic panels noted above, but the rest of the book looked terrific. The realism of the characters is quite impressive and makes for a very moody atmosphere given the overall dark and gritty sensibility applied throughout. Many other scenes are quite epic without requiring an abundance of dialogue thanks to Campbell’s excellent illustrations. As per usual, the tone of every scene is thoroughly enhanced by Dave Stewart’s masterful color work; this guy really is a chameleon among chameleons who can perfectly match any artist’s style.
Sledgehammer 44 is definitely one of the coolest titles in the Mignolaverse, and that is really saying something given the high quality typically associated with Mignola and company. Lightning War has started off in a fairly unexpected, but wholly satisfying way. True to typical form for these gentlemen, the book was full of deeper introspection accompanied by equally substantial writing and seriously impressive artwork. Now that the action has gotten started, it will be interesting to see how far the team goes with the Hammer’s backstory throughout the course of Lightning War. Either way, we’re surely in for a wild ride.