By Daniel Vlasaty
Black Hammer is a book I have read and enjoyed as long as it’s been coming out. But I never reviewed it. I’m not really sure why this is. Maybe because I didn’t want to write a review that was basically just OMG GUYS THIS FREAKING BOOK IS AMAZING, TOTALLY AWESOME YES. But I decided to put all that out of my mind and review Black Hammer #9. Mainly because David Rubin is doing the art in this issue. Black Hammer is a great book with solid characters and intrigue and mystery. It’s the perfect book for the comic reader who loves superhero stories but is tired of all the same old bullshit. But you already know that. This is a review for the ninth issue. You know what the overall story is about. But what about this issue, on its own, away from all the other issues that came before it?
Black Hammer #9 begins with Colonel Weird out in deep space, in the Olser Star System. He receives a distress beacon from a planet showing no signs of sentient life, and because he is a space adventurer, he goes to investigate. Once on the planet, his radio seems to be breaking up, picking up interference and he is almost immediately attacked by a horde of pissed off robots. He is outnumbered and outgunned and he flees, attempting to get back to his ship. But he’s on an alien world, and he gets lost. And he is rescued by a rogue robot, Talky-Walky, who is obsessed with life on earth, thanks to the earth TV shows his space probes pick up and broadcast down to his planet. Talky-Walky wants nothing more to escape the robo-dictatorship his home world has become. He offers to help rescue Colonel Weird if Colonel Weird will take the robot back to earth with him.
This issue explores their relationship, from the very beginnings of it in the past all the way up to the future. Showing us more of what we saw in the last issue, leading up to and directly after Colonel Weird shot Talky-Walky. This issue is the first time we’re really given the opportunity to see more of Talky-Walky. Aside from him making and sending out probe after probe, working in his shop out in the barn, we haven’t really had much time with the robot. In issue #9, though, we see that he is more than just the cold and calculating robot he comes off as. He has emotions and feelings and cares and dreams just like the rest of the stranded heroes.
This is a sad and contemplative issue. We’re not given all the information as to why Colonel Weird did what he did, but we are shown that it was not something he did easily or lightly. Lemire handles this deep and draining storyline like a seasoned pro (which at this point I guess he is anyway). The writing is solid, and the tone somber and quiet. It may be one of the most sobering and emotional comic books I’ve read in a long time. Damn you, Lemire, for making me feel things and stuff!
But seriously, I’ve always been a fan of Lemire’s stuff, ever since I first was introduced to his stuff in the pages of Sweet Tooth. Both his writing and his art, too. I think I prefer his quiet, personal stories more than anything else he’s ever done, though, and this issue is right on par with that. Black Hammer’s a weird book and it takes a master craftsman like Jeff Lemire to write a compelling story about the friendship between and weirdo time-and-space adventurer and a refugee robot.
David Rubin takes over the art duties as guest artist in this issue. And in all honesty, while I really do like Dean Ormston’s art, I think this book could be even better if Rubin was the full-time Black Hammer artist. I’ve always liked Rubin’s whimsical and quirky and imaginative art. And I think his style fits Black Hammer perfectly. It’s interesting to see him work off an already well-established world, to see how he interprets the characters and environment. One downside to this, though, is that Colonel Weird and Talky-Walky are the only two characters prominently featured in this issue. I was really looking forward to seeing Rubin’s interpretation of Barbie, in particular. While Rubin’s art is more on the playful side, he is still more than capable of showcasing all the emotions and distress Colonel Weird is feeling.
I also wanted to comment on Rubin’s panel work. It is heavy and layered, but it never feels like it becomes too much. It never bogs down the art or the story. Quite the opposite, actually. I think it enhances the experience of the story. I think it shows just how chaotic Colonel Weird and Talky-Walky’s adventures are. I think all the layering lets the story flow more naturally.
Overall Black Hammer has consistently been one of the better books coming out each month. And with this issue, I feel like it’s taken that up a notch. I’m not sure what’s in store for the characters in this book in the coming issues but there was some heavy foreshadowing in this issue, with Colonel Weird and the Para-Zone, with his being able to see past, present, and future all at once. I love this book and I hope David Rubin comes back to its pages to do the art more and more.
Black Hammer #9
Dark Horse Comics