By Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart, and Todd Klein
The second issue of the highly anticipated new series Black Hammer starts to unravel some mysteries while also compounding more depth to already established characters. Black Hammer is centered on a group of heroes, The Golden Age heroes of Spiral City, who were kicked out of their city and time in an effort to defeat the Anti-God.
Our heroes include Colonel Weird, a space hero who can access another dimension in the Para-Zone. His companion and sidekick, Walky Talky, a robot that is desperately making probes to find an escape out of their town. Then there is Barabalien, a warlord from Mars who often sulks with Golden Gail over their situation. Golden Gail is a fifty-five year-old woman who is perpetually stuck in her nine year-old body in this town. Her back-story and powers are explored in depth in this issue. Abraham Slam, the original two-fisted crime buster, is adjusting to his new life quite nicely, posing as Gail’s grandfather and spending time with a waitress named Tammy. Then, there is or was Black Hammer, hero of the streets, who was the only hero brave enough or stupid enough to attempt to leave the city. He was successful, he left, but the cost of leaving may have been his life.
All the heroes are perpetually stuck inside a small-town rural city and they live together on a farm, posing as a family to the unsuspecting locals. Each hero has their own way of handling the isolation, but only one seems to be enjoying their new reality. Lemire does a great job introducing familiar comic book tropes to this new hero universe he is creating, while still leaving room for the unfamiliar to surface. Heroes displaced and sacrificed for the greater good, than unable to leave their new town. The questions of what this town could be are endless, a new dimension, and the remains of their former city or universe, or a prison? Lemire is setting the scenario just right for us to believe we are going down the predictable comic rabbit holes to then surprise us at the last moment with a big twist.
Black Hammer #2 does spend a great deal of time to flesh out Golden Gail, former sweetheart of America, now currently a super powered fifty year old posing as a fourth grader. Lemire took the time to give some backstory to Golden Gail, revealing her origin, which bares a striking similarity to another classic super hero (DC’s Shazam). Lemire possibly wrote the most predictable hero backstory first, and this story in the second issue could also serve as a building block for future hero backstory and growth. This issue definitely delves into the sadness associated with Gail’s powers, even before the Anti-God destruction and subsequent isolation. The power to revert back to your child self took different meaning to Gail as she got older, and now she is forced to live day in and day out as a child, it had taken a mental toll on her. Although Lemire did not provide any great reveals or shocking truths behind this character and followed a pretty predictable character development, it still does resonate with readers that there is something building between the characters perhaps tension, resentment, or even betrayal. The next issues are sure to be must read to see how the rest of the heroes are fleshed out.
The art depicted in Black Hammer is similar to the story, classic with hints of nuance to keep the pages fresh and appealing. The creative team consists of Dean Ormston on lines, with colors by Dave Stewart, and letters from Todd Klein. The art style features heavy lines, especially in facial expressions, and bland somber color schemes for the heavy duration of the story. The book smartly divides the creative style between the past and present retelling of the story that helps delineate time sequences. The past time sequences feature a more classic art style with brighter color use, and great classic comic references. Some favorite include Golden Gail lifting a green VW bug effortlessly a la Superman in the famous Action Comics #1 or striking down an enemy against a dark blue backdrop with a lightning strike a la the Dark Knight from Frank Miller. Those easter eggs included from the creative team really speak to the comic nerd deep inside this reviewer and make a big gooey smile come to my face when reading this book.
The best way to describe Black Hammer is it is a comic book written by comic book lovers for comic book lovers. This book makes you feel nostalgic for comics, with it’s cheeky homage to classic comic tropes and prototypes we all know and love while promising a fresh new twist awaiting all the true believers who see this series through to the end. This is a must read for all those of us who claim to be comic lovers or anyone who is looking for a great series as a first exposure to comic book.