Published on January 13th, 2017 | by Dana Folkard
BLACK HAMMER ANNUAL REVIEW
Summary: Clever writing and character development with illustrations from an all-star list the industries most talented artists.
An uncanny and curious tale
The Black Hammer Giant-Sized Annual is an anthology, which features stories written by Jeff Lemire, focusing on each of the stranded superheroes. It features illustrations by an all-star list of artists, which include Nate Powell, Matt Kindt, Dustin Nguyen, Ray Fawkes, Emi Lenox and Michael Allred.
We once again enter the Parra-Zone with Colonel Weird as he pursues a bizarre interdimensional entity that is interfering with his companions pasts. Weird is taken on a journey through time and space, looking through portals that reflect each of the heroes encounter with this mysterious beast. Always the observer, Weird watches on, never interacting with these events, as he believes that the past should not be altered. This parasitic monster attacks unsuspecting people, controlling their mind and body, forcing them to act out in an aggressive way. The likelihood of these encounters being coincidence is minimal, as everything is mapped out and happens for a reason. However, what that reason is remains a mystery.
Jeff Lemire has spun an interesting tale about memory, the past and patterns through time. I rather enjoyed seeing the different stories, told in a way so as to reflect the character that it was focusing on. Abraham Slam is facing off in the boxing ring, Golden Gail is at a drag race with her squeeze, Barbalien has a noir-style detective story and Madame Dragonfly is the isolated outcast, forever stuck in her cabin of horrors. Seeing fragments of their past in connection to this strange creature piques my curiosity and I can’t help but feel like there is much more to this story and that these events are significant to the bigger picture. Whilst this annual focuses on many of the Black Hammer heroes, it’s ultimately Colonel Weird who is the main focal point. He is the connecting factor throughout all of this and it is through him that we learn and discover the uncanny pattern of time and consequence. There is an underlying feeling of unease and apprehension, as these events can only be the harbinger of ill news. There are multiple clues relating to the main story littered throughout and I rather enjoy piecing this mysterious puzzle together. It feels like as if the veil is being pulled back, revealing some curious plot developments and mysteries.
This annual is illustrated by multiple talented artists, all with their own unique take on these characters. I rather enjoyed having characters I’ve come accustomed to seeing drawn by Dean Ormston being interpreted and drawn in completely different styles. It’s visually compelling and makes for some interesting interpretations. Each artist illustrates a smaller story featured in the narrative, lending their own unique talents. Whether it be the gritty and edgy art of Matt Kindt, the emotive and striking visuals of Ray Fawkes, the beautiful brushwork of Nate Powell, the fresh and playful art of Emi Lenox, the retro inspired art style of Michael Allred or the graphic and dramatic art of Dustin Nguyen, they all introduce a new and unique dimension to the visual narrative. The colouring by Dave Stewart and Sharlene Kindt helps to establish and heighten the emotional tone of the story. There is an uneasy vibe throughout and this overall feeling of tension and apprehension is established through the very atmospheric and muted colour palette.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this curious tale and learning more about this mysterious tale. I found that Lemire paces his stories well, which allows for us to take in and absorb everything at a steady pace. Even though a lot happens, I never feel overwhelmed and I believe that this is because of his clever writing and character development. The art delivers so much variety and it brings a totally new and interesting element to the Black Hammer visual narrative. I highly recommend reading this, as it’s a wonderful addition to this very curious and cryptic tale.
I’m giving this 5 out of 5 stars!
Title: Black Hammer Giant-Sized Annual
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Creative Team: Jeff Lemire, Dustin Nguyen, Emi Lenox, Nate Powell, Matt Kindt, Ray Fawkes, Michael Allred, Dave Stewart and Sharlene Kindt.
Reviewer: Dana Folkard