By Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart, Dustin Nguyen, Emi Lenox, Nate Powell, Matt Kindt, Ray Fawkes

There hasn’t been a single issue yet of the new Dark Horse series Black Hammer that would make someone not want to keep reading more. Beyond that, each issue has given readers new reasons to fall in love with the title all over again. Not kidding, every singe issue is pure gold and so it will come as no surprise that Black Hammer Giant Sized Annual #1 is everything we’ve come to appreciate about the comic and more! With a story that ties back to the ongoing storyline, and a small army of artists, this book is as rewarding as an entertaining experience can get.

Annuals are all but a thing of the past, unfortunately, but here creators Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston continue to tap into the nostalgia that we all feel when it comes to Black Hammer. It’s both old and new; an original piece of work made possible by existing comic characters that are like familiar faces in a fresh setting. The superhero Black Hammer himself even makes an appearance, sort of, while all of the other characters get equal time, with a little extra spotlight going to the fascinating Colonel Weird. As usual Weird’s piece is as surreal as ever and, believe it or not, this time the Colonel takes the story to an all-new level of intrigue. Saying anything else would be treading into spoiler territory…trust in Black Hammer, and you wont be disappointed.

Thankfully there’s a lot more to talk about. Although, the entire comic was written by Jeff Lemire, there are several other contributors tackling different chapters. Along with artist Dean Ormston and colorist Dave Stewart is a perfectly curated group consisting of Dustin Nguyen, Michael Allred, Emi Lenox, Nate Powell, Matt Kindt, Ray Fawkes, and Sharen Kindt. The annual is a work of art and the blending of styles is refreshing without taking away from the Black Hammer brand. Don’t worry. Everything here is done in the spirit of the book, and it’s obvious that everyone involved was excited to be included. Each segment is rendered for the character it focuses on with a precision that let’s us know this was either a well-planned execution, or a sign of faithful dedication, or both…probably both. Of course none of the overall mystery is solved, but you can’t help feeling a sense of progress. As the story moves forward so does our perspective, and this annual, with all of the various folks working on it, only helps give clearer voices to the characters. On the one hand, we’re given a book that is fun and beautiful to read, but on the other hand we’re being introduced to a comic book making experience that transcends the creators – and the pages they create – while giving us insight into the magic of comics on every level. Thoughtful and professional storytelling makes this issue a must read for fans of the series and fans of comics in general.

You’ll be hard pressed to find a favorite story here without admitting that they work best as a collection. By the last page the tale is as complete as it can be, but your love of Black Hammer will only increase. Annuals once served as a way of bringing on new readers, and so they typically stuck to more exclusive storylines without leading to the overall, ongoing arc. Annuals were also used to showcase new talent, but here the Black Hammer crew has created a Giant Sized Annual that serves more as an opportunity to let other people have some fun with the popular new title. This is a group effort meant to get more out of the series before it takes a break leading up to the next arc. Good news is, there’s plenty here to absorb and reabsorb before then.

Available January 18th, 2017

About The Author Matthew Strackbein

Matt Strackbein was born and raised in Maryland but has called Colorado home for the last 17 years where he lives happily in Longmont with his wife. He began reading comic books at the age of seven after discovering a silver age stash in his grandparents’ attic. Comic books inspired Matt to start drawing, which lead to a successful career as a commercial artist. He has worked in the apparel industry for many years as a production artist and designer. His accomplishments include designing backcountry skiwear for world-class athletes as well as downhill ski race suit designs for the 2014 Winter Olympics for the United States and Canadian national ski teams. Matt currently works as a freelance textile-print designer, but still dedicates time to his first love – comics. With over 200 letters to the editor published, Matt is a known letterhack. He self-publishes autobiographical comics about his struggles to break into the industry, which finally paid off when Dark Horse asked him to produce 2-page back up stories in recent issues of B.P.R.D. Besides his own comics, Matt collaborates on independent books as a colorist and letterer. He also teaches the art of making comics to students of all ages.