By Chris Tresson
I was very much looking forward to reviewing this book. As I'm probably not going to get another shot at reviewing any Black Hammer for Comic Bastards (Laramie Martinez has reviewed the series for CB thus far and I don't see him giving it up anytime soon!) I thought I'd take a shot at this giant-sized annual... This is my review of the Black Hammer Giant-Sized Annual, in stores this week from Dark Horse Comics.
The first thing I noted was that this annual isn't really "giant-sized" in the page count sense. When I think "giant-sized", I think around eighty pages total. This book comes in at forty pages. It's longer than a standard issue, and I think the title may be a play on the book from the old days of comics where you got more than the standard twenty-two pages, or it could be more to do with the amount of talent on display in the book. Either way, let's get into this...
I'm usually a bit wary of annuals these days, but this one seems to me like it's more connected to its series than most annuals are (i.e. it doesn't feel like a standalone story, it feels like it ties into the main story and isn't just an attempt at a cash grab due to the book's popularity.)
In this annual, we're following Colonel Weird as he pursues a strange creature through the para-zone. Each of the main characters gets a piece of the spotlight in this issue as the creature has at some point or another had interaction with them. It's a fun journey and offers a bit more of a look into the backgrounds of these characters. Jeff Lemire is fantastic with his writing on this series. He uses some fairly simple techniques whilst writing to give it that "golden age" feel. Things like thought bubbles and exclamation points after every line of a character's internal monologue in the caption boxes, the sort of thing that has disappeared in most modern comics.
The art is really nice throughout the book, which is great. There are some artists in here who have previously collaborated with Lemire on other titles he has written. It's fun to see different artist's takes on these characters and if I had to single any one artist out and say they did the best, I couldn't. I enjoyed them all equally. My only gripe with the entire thing would be that I was expecting a few more pages than I got, but other than that, it's all good with me.
Overall, I think this annual does a good job of maintaining the quality I'm used to seeing in the series and I really enjoyed reading it. Fans of the series will no doubt love it and it's a little bit of a treat between the wait for the series coming back (not long now.) So yeah. It's pretty bloody good and I reckon you should go out and buy it and the trade if you haven't already. The longer this series goes the better. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way.
Black Hammer Giant-Sized Annual #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Dustin Nguyen, Emi Lenox, Nate Powell, Matt Kindt, Mike Allred and Ray Fawkes
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics