By Ben Snyder
Cleverly disguised as a classic Superhero serial, Jeff Lemire continues to subvert and praise that era with his Eisner winning run on Black Hammer with another fantastic issue of Black Hammer #11. Although this issue isn’t action packed or filled with a huge set piece cornerstone scene, Jeff Lemire continues to write what he writes best: human melancholy.
Black Hammer #11 focuses mostly on Barbalien and his trials of being gay. Set in the past and in the present, Lemire shows exactly what Barbalien has been through and how he has grown throughout his many years. Lemire toys with irony, being that the literal alien of the team is the most human out of all of them. You can’t help but feel for Barbie as his former police officers mock him by writing “Fag” on his locker. It’s these quiet moments that hit home with a Lemire script and with the subtext that after leaving the precinct, Barbie's attempt to take his life/leave earth really emphasizes the emotion of the script.
In the present, Barbalien stating explicitly his wants and desires with Father Quinn shows how much his character has grown not just in this series but also throughout his life. He is willing to state what he wants and is comfortable with his sexuality. It’s a truly beautiful moment as he is willing to lay it all out on the line for the simple hope of love. Unfortunately, Father Quinn rebuffs him, but I doubt this will be the last of their interactions.
Not to be lost in the shuffle is Gail and her turmoil. Gail attempts suicide by disintegration as she goes to the edge of the farm’s property and edge of the town. Having her leave the note for Barbie in which she reiterates his former claim of there being “no place for me here” really hits home. But what follows is a true humanizing moment of emotion as Barbalien swoops in to save her and their friendship. It sounds corny but it’s passionate and real moment between two lifelong friends.
Lucy Weber meanwhile is trying to figure out the riddle that is the town. Nothing really new is added to her plotline this week besides her suspicions being confirmed as she sees the same couple eating the same ice cream in two different areas of the town. And while it was clever, I ultimately felt as though this scene could have been shortened in order for more Abraham, Barbalien, Gail, or even Madam Dragonfly drama to have taken place.
Dean Ormston’s art style continues to be the ideal match for this story. Barbalien looks authentically alien, but is still capable of displaying the emotion that the script demands. But, most importantly, Ormston’s style mimics the same era of comics that Lemire’s script is idolizing. Ormston’s figures and settings look like a remastered rendition of a classic silver age comic but still original enough where it’s not just imitation. The house the team lives in looks lived in and haunted by just as its inhabitants are.
I really can’t say enough of this series. Black Hammer continues to amaze me to the point where even a stellar issue of it such as Black Hammer #11 registers as just a “meh” for me because I’m so used to the greatness of each issue and I think that is this series biggest flaw: In any other comic series I’d give this issue a 5 out of 5. But because this issue is a part of Black Hammer it’s score is lessened a bit because every issue would be 5 out of 5. So in the grand scheme of the story, this issue was one of the lesser “WOW” ones. However, this is a stupid thing to complain about and should not be held against this issue alone. If anything it simply proves the ultimate point that you should be reading this comic regardless of what my review says.
Black Hammer #11
Dark Horse Comics