Published on July 1st, 2016 | by Dana Folkard
BLACK HAMMER #1 REVIEW
Summary: It offers us drama, mystery and intrigue, packaged as a unique take on a different kind of superhero story.
Gritty and mysterious
[Review contains minor spoilers]
Black Hammer, the creator-owned comic series from the writer Jeff Lemire and artist Dean Ormston, offers the perfect balance of humour, mystery and intrigue all framed in a dysfunctional superhero family dynamic. Lemire has created a team of reinvented Pulp, Golden Age and Silver Age superheroes, reminiscent of The Watchmen and The Twelve. It’s always refreshing to come across a comic that offers up a unique and unusual take on a superhero story. From the get-go I’ve been intrigued by this comic and what it has to offer. I found the cover alone perplexing and mysterious and I knew that I was going to be entering into an unfamiliar world filled with mystifying characters and gripping stories. I’m happy to say that these guys have me excited about superheroes again!
The story transports us into a mysterious world where we see a group of misplaced superheroes exiled to a strange Stephen King-like town after saving their city from a catastrophic event. They may have saved the city but it was at the cost of their own freedom and the life of their beloved friend, Black Hammer. Ten years have passed since the event that sent them into exile and we first meet this dysfunctional family on the eve of the anniversary. They are stranded, have no way of getting back home and are therefore forced to integrate themselves into this town and their simple way of life. We are entering this world where the age of superheroes has come and gone and this band of unwilling exiles lament over what once was and reflect on their current lives. We really start to get a sense of who these superheroes are on a personal and emotional level, as we begin to understand what motivates them, what drives them and what makes them tick. I’m excited by this concept and already intrigued with where this is headed!
What I really enjoyed is the interesting assortment of characters that we get to meet in this first issue. Every member of this “family” of superheroes possess some sort of unique gift or talent, making them all very different from one another. All of the characters are reflective of a classic comic book genre or era and this is used as canon for the inspiration behind their powers, motivations and unique personalities. There is Abraham Slam who appears to be the unofficial head of the family. He alone is the one character who really seems at peace with his new life and is happy living on the farm. The feisty and powerful Golden Gail who is an older woman stuck in a child’s body. Colonel Weird, a space trauma casualty who floats around the farm in a confused, ghost-like state and his ever-loyal robotic sidekick, Talky-Walky. Barbalien, a.k.a Mark Markz, a shape-shifting Martian, reminiscent of the famous J’onn J’onzz and finally Madame Dragonfly, the most mysterious one out of the bunch. There appears to be some ill feelings and bitterness between her and the other characters, as many of them talk about her with distaste and loathing. These core characters are distinct and unique, yet at the same time familiar and I’m really looking forward to learning about their stories and getting to know them. Their introductions alone have already set the foundations to what is shaping up to be interesting story.
Dean Ormston’s art fits in perfectly with a story like this. Ormston has developed a unique take on how a superhero story should look and feel and all of this is grounded with the very different and diverse appearance of all of the main characters. There is a dark, brooding quality to his art, which I found to be quite haunting and unnerving at times. Ormston has created an almost otherworldly quality to the farm and town with a constant sense of foreboding and menace. I also really enjoyed the retro comic vibe that I kept seeing in the flashback scenes. The flashbacks evoke classic comic scenes from the Golden Age and Silver Age artists, like Jack Kirby. These little pulp-like flashbacks really work with the other panels, as they bring a vibrant pop of colour to the otherwise muted colour palette. There is a real sense of decay to the farm and I found that this was heightened by the very effective colouring by Dave Stewart. Stewart’s colouring really fits in perfectly with Ormston’s art and enhances the creepy, almost horror-like quality to some of the scenes and faces that we see. I actually forgot that I was reading a superhero comic at times and thought that I was stepping into a haunting horror story.
Black Hammer is shaping up to be an interesting and enigmatic adventure. In its first issue it already offers us drama, mystery and intrigue, packaged as a unique take on a different kind of superhero comic. The story is interesting, the art is ethereal and I’m definitely looking forward to stepping back into this strange world and uncovering the mysteries it holds. Please do not hesitate to read this comic. I believe it has a lot to offer and will continue to do so.
I’m giving Black Hammer 4.5 out of 5 stars!
Title: Black Hammer #1
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Creative Team: Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart
Reviewer: Dana Folkard