by Arpad Okay. Black Hammer is Jeff Lemire come full circle. His first major series (from nearly a decade ago) was a dark portrait of rural life, and ever since isolation has been a recurring theme in much of his work. Lemire’s Stephen King-ly lean towards small towns and black magic finds him writing superhero comics for most of the top shelf publishers in America right now. He’s an idea man.
And Black Hammer is a kind of culmination of everything he has done so far. A book of ideas fit for the Avengers or Justice League written without the shackles of franchise. The references are worn on the sleeve, but the writing is the stuff of Jeff’s dreams. Black Hammer goes wherever it wishes. Lemire takes the characters you love and brings them home.
It’s an intriguing, Twilight Zone kind of mystery: a legion of superheroes have been sent into exile, trapped on a small town farm. They are as much a dysfunctional family as most cape-and-tights groups, but instead of going to war, they live with each other. Dad wants everyone to get along, mom is a robot, brother and sister hate it here, crazy uncle, the aunt you never see. And, of course, the Black Hammer. In a little corner of the map that’s terribly, terribly boring.
The pace and focus in Black Hammer is rock solid. It takes time to make it crystal clear who on the team is a riff on whom, but no one is a carbon copy. We get the time to linger with their personality as well as the hero they once were. Lemire makes sure we can see what makes each of them unique. What makes them characters as well as genre conventions.
So naturally my favorites are the two who are the most bored. I love the pouty, gothy child superheroine and the living kinkeshi from Mars. Folks who can fly but can’t really go anywhere… just end up floating around. The struggle — and the subsequent brooding — is real.
To them, it feels like a wasted life. Can one waste life? Abraham Slam says, “It may not be the life we wanted. But it’s the life we have. And at least we have it together.” Will it hold? There is pressure from within and from outside. The doom the team hides from in Black Hammer hasn’t been prevented. Just delayed.
Dark Horse Comics / $3.99
Written by Jeff Lemire.
Illustrated by Dean Ormston.
Colored by Dave Stewart.
Lettered by Todd Klein.
6 out of 10
‘Black Hammer’ #1 is available through comiXology and your local retailer on July 20.