When Jeff Lemire made the jump to superhero books I was excited. Like a lot of people, I had read his work and was very interested to see what he could do with the genre. That said, I have never read anything of Lemire’s corporate hero books and enjoyed them. To the point that I don’t even try them anymore, which is what makes Black Hammer so interesting because it’s basically his take on golden age superheroes but with a modern country twist. To put it frankly, it’s everything I wanted from his corporate superhero work. By now you probably know what Black Hammer is all about, a group of golden age heroes have been trapped in a town they can’t leave and are approaching their ten-year anniversary. They don’t know why they’re trapped; they don’t know why they can’t leave.
The issue follows most of the characters as we learn about their situation. For Abe, he’s adjusted and likes the life they have. His companions, including his granddaughter, not so much. His granddaughter is trapped in the body of a nine-year-old, which sucks for her since she’s nineteen. Others in the group seem to have lost their mind a bit, but what’s clear is that they function as a family unit. Even if they are one of the strangest families.
I’ll admit that I don’t know enough comic history to know everything that Lemire is giving homage here. The most obvious one is Barbalien who is an homage to Martian Manhunter, the others seem to be combination of Justice League of America and Justice Society of America. I could be off though. I recognize their tropes, though, because Lemire crafts them wonderfully. That’s the charming thing about his writing here because he tells you how they were and shows you how they are in the same instance. It gives you an idea of their character journey without showing you the past ten years or more.
The dialogue is smooth and natural. There’s some exposition, but it’s very intentional and while not explained, it seems like something that will be explained with future issues. Otherwise, each character has their own unique voice. This is the dialogue I wish more of Lemire’s work had.
The artwork is interesting. Originally when I saw Dean Ormston’s work I really liked it. I still like it, but it has its rough elements. There’s a part with a character turning their head that looks smushed and awkward. There’s varying success throughout the issue. The character designs are strong. They’re iconic, classic, and familiar all in the same blink. Dave Stewart’s coloring is gorgeous and gives the book a unique look. Particularly at the end in which we see more of the world. It’s rustic like a lot of his work but still different enough from his approach on the Mignolaverse.
This first issue was refreshing. It gave me hope that I might enjoy more of Lemire’s superhero work and it’s a step in the right direction for Dark Horse. Frankly, both the creator and publisher needed this book and after some unfortunate delays, it’s here and it delivers on all fronts.
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