Black Hammer #1

Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Dean Ormston
Colors by Dave Stewart
Letters by Todd Klein

Review by John Dubrawa

Black HammerI can’t get enough of comics that take apart and examine the conventional superhero drama, and if that’s your sentiment as well, Black Hammer #1 is well worth checking out. This new series from Dark Horse, written by superstar scribe Jeff Lemire, takes a close look at a Golden Age-esque superhero team well past their prime but nevertheless looking to reclaim some semblance of the twilight of their former lives. If it sounds rather typical for this type of superhero deconstruction story, know that Lemire introduces quite a few wrinkles in the plot to keep it feeling fresh. Also note that this is Lemire we’re taking about, so nothing’s ever typical with that guy.

One of those aforementioned wrinkles that Lemire tosses in is the fact that most the team is operating in bodies that are not their own, which are being used as disguises to facilitate a quiet farmhouse life. The team is disgruntled about their predicament, turning their angst to their unofficial patriarch, Alabama Slam, who is a Kingdom Come Superman-like figure just trying to make the best of what is less than an ideal situation for the team. Through Slam’s interactions with his various teammates–Golden Gail, Col. Weird, Talky-Walky, Barbalien, and Madame Dragonfly–Lemire is able to extract a lot of personality from heroes that we as readers have never even met before. That’s quite an accomplishment.

Dean Ormston’s art in Black Hammer #1 elicits a lot of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy vibes in all the best ways. His slightly atypical body designs mixed with a heavy use of shadow gives the book an unnatural vibe to the proceedings, which works well with Lemire’s less-than-traditional family life script. Dave Stewart’s colors are subdued just enough to fit with Ormston’s more macabre art but bright enough in spots that the book isn’t marred in darkness. You’re definitely not getting a more traditional superhero art team with Black Hammer and given the contents of this first issue, it’s going to be a perfect fit.

The Verdict
Buy it! Jeff Lemire is a superstar writer, we all know this. His off-the-beaten path work is where he excels and Black Hammer #1, while grounded in the superhero genre, is anything but a traditional cowls and capes story. There’s enough personality shown here through all the characters that it feels like Lemire is just stepping in to write a team that has been published for decades prior. If you are in need of a good superhero deconstruction story to sink your teeth into, Black Hammer is one to get.

John Dubrawa

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