Review: Sledgehammer 44 – Lightning War #2 (of 3)

It’s only been in recent years that I’ve gotten in to Mignola’s line of books at Dark Horse. It has to be the largest shared universe created by one created and organized on a small publisher scale. Sure Scott Allie manages editorial on the line of books, but Mignola hasn’t just handed over the keys to the castle. He’s involved in every story which includes B.P.R.D., Lobster Johnson, Baltimore, Hellboy in Hell and of course the newest addition to the line Sledgehammer 44. Not to mention any one-off mini-series like B.P.R.D. Vampire and the likes. It’s impressive to say the least. The first issue in this mini answered some great questions that were left over from Sledge’s debut. This issue doesn’t so much answer or ask questions as it begins to craft the type of man or spirit that resides in the shell of armor known as Sledgehammer 44.

The issue actually begins with our captured pilot being tortured for information on how to fly the stealth bomber looking jet that the Nazi’s have captured. Meanwhile the plane that Sledge was on is blown up, but instead of hitting the ground our black skull guy swoops him up in the air and begins talking to him. He calls him a turtle and tells him he’s going to kill him inside of his shell. Here’s the interesting thing though, we know that Sledge is technically dead so in a way it makes him invulnerable to these attacks. Sledge uses his lightning blast to make the black skull dude shut up… at least for a minute. Back with our tortured pilot, he manages to free himself from his shackles and turns on a distress signal from inside the plane. He’s captured again unfortunately and they change his torture, no longer wanting the information pulled from his mouth… but from his brain.

Sledgehammer 44 - Lightning War #2 CoverIn the scheme of things the story in this issue moves a half step forward. It’s not much, but then it doesn’t need to cover a lot of ground to be good. The little things that are set in place for the plot are very interesting and while not huge, they offer a payoff to the story. We also see the type of character that Sledge is becoming, a fearless hero that knows when to put himself on the line. For me this story is about Sledge accepting who he’s become, that he’s not the man who was originally in the suit nor is he the man he was before he entered the suit. It’s interesting and again he’s a great addition to the line of books.

John Arcudi and Mignola continue to work in perfect tandem on this series. Really a lot of credit is owed to Arcudi who has now co-written and plotted countless issues with Mignola. They really have one of if not the best writing partnerships in comics. I would personally love to see how they write or plot together. The dialogue is sharp in this issue making Sledge and the exposed Skull dude that goes by “Death” all the more interesting.

With a lot of the Mignolaverse titles there’s one artist or a rotation of artists on a particular series. I’m hoping that Laurence Campbell becomes the regular artist for this series because his artwork is fantastic. The scene in the sky with Sledge and Skull facing off was amazing looking. There really is a sense of awe when looking at this scene. The charm of the Mignolaverse to me is that it is very real feeling. There’s so many true or close to true historical facts that the setting is very believable; so when you see two men fighting in the sky you can’t help but feel tiny. It’s fantastic artwork and Campbell is the perfect fit for this tale.

The only people I’ve meet that didn’t like a Mignola book were people who focused too much on what they didn’t know about the universe rather than the bounty of information each issue provides you. I’ve watched as several writers on the site have become more and more invested in the Mignolaverse and they’re not the first nor will they be the last. This shared universe is incredible and only grows with time. This issue is no better or worse than all the other Mignola titles, but each Mignola title is so incredible that it’s in a league above most other comic books.

Score: 4/5

Writers: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi Artist: Laurence Campbell Colorist: Dave Stewart Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 12/18/13