By Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart, and Todd Klein
The powerful and much-acclaimed Dark Horse title, Black Hammer, finally returns! Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston and Dave Stewart left readers on quite the thunderous cliffhanger with Lucy Weber, daughter of the original hero Black Hammer, continuing a legacy that she was destined for. Luckily, the story picks up exactly where it left off, but Lemire and company weren’t satisfied with playing things conventional and immediately shake up expectations a mere few pages into the comic. Thus, this next arc thrusts the plot and characters into new, fascinating and chilling territory. It’s the Black Hammer welcome one would expect no less from.
There’s often a comfort returning to familiar or loved characters. It’s a testament to the creative team developing them so well in the previous run. What’s exciting is that the familiarity is there, but Age of Doom feels different, not just in reference to the plot. Lucy was always key, but now she is prominently in the forefront and sharing almost equivalent comic space with the other golden age heroes on the farm. She becomes the device for propelling the story into fresh and surprising corners of this universe. Also, Lucy has instilled a change into the old superheroes and given them even more agency than before. It’s fascinating to see how Lemire continues to incorporate his interpretations of key comic characters, eras and genres. With his attention to character and making them as human and relatable, he is able to make these people, what otherwise would be total rip-offs, into amazing and original icons themselves. This issue is at its core purely expositional, full of dialogue-centric scenes, but the emotion and actions are palpable and impactful, all at once. The content crafted by this creative is a shock to the system.
A comic’s narrative is nothing without its art and Black Hammer is a key example of this. The heart/emotions would fall flat and never leave the page if it wasn’t for the unique and intoxicating art of Ormston and Stewart. Each page is an art lesson that demands audience engagement. Experiencing moment such as the inner turmoil of Golden Gail to the hopeful roundtable discussion of the old heroes is a rollercoaster that these two deftly orchestrated. Setting all these potent moments against the mundane or even Rockwellian backdrop of the farm is genius and makes the characters and their situations stand out more. The confidence and skill to render such affecting close-up panels is also telling of how attentive this creative team is to the conveying the narrative in the best way possible. The color used to compliment and contrast characters and locations evokes such a level intrigue and tension that it’s almost subliminal, until it hits after finishing the issue. It’s rush that’s rarely experienced these days in comics.
Also, the new fiendish characters and direction that is introduced allows the entire team to stretch their creative legs in ways they haven’t yet in this series. It’s basically a whole new world that distinctly contrasts with the established one readers have become so familiar with. Again, it’s shaking up the status quo and upping the ante of where this comic can and will go. The promo image of the next issue is proof enough that Jeff Lemire and company are putting all their best creative cards on the table continually.
Black Hammer: Age of Doom is a perfect return to form that breaks this very convention, but, ultimately, that seems to be part of the DNA of this comic. It’s postmodern, but earnest in its respect for the comic history and culture it so heavily references. This is truly a comic that is meant for comic fans, but it’s so strong that anyone can pick it up and become engrossed in the world immediately. That’s the power of Black Hammer. Now, it is highly recommended to be familiar with the events prior to Age of Doom, so be sure to pick up the first two trades before reading issue one of this new storyline. This is a title that continues to challenge it’s creators and the readers – to go into the unknown and face it head-on!