Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews — now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘Black Hammer: Age of Doom’ #1, out April 18 from Dark Horse Comics.

Cover to 'Black Hammer: Age of Doom' #1. Art by Dean Ormston and Dave Stewart/Dark Horse Comics

Cover to ‘Black Hammer: Age of Doom’ #1. Art by Dean Ormston and Dave Stewart/Dark Horse Comics

By Clyde Hall. We’ve had quality appetizers to tide us over until the mid-April release of Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer series. Sherlock Frankenstein & The Legion of Evil. Doctor Star & The Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows. But finally, the entrée’s arrived, so it’s back to The Farm in search of answers and insights, likely of both the revolting and revelatory sorts.

It’s proof of Lemire’s writing chops, making readers anxious to return to a perpetual trap, an involuntary quarantine of superheroes as perhaps penance for defeating a supremely evil threat to the world. The Farm and the town of Rockwood grow on you even as you revel at their fiendish design. Heroes of an earlier Age are supposed to be shuttled to pocket universes and parallel dimensions for endless fighting and dying in Ragnarok or to float insubstantially in a Negative/Phantom Zone. Being resigned to quiet, endless, non-superhero lives in a rustic rural setting, separated from loved ones and any contact with the real world, is perhaps kinder yet infinitely crueler. The alternative, hero-ing up and being utterly destroyed (as demonstrated on one of your fellow castaways), instills an inclination to go along with the prison program. It’s nearly a comic book counterpart to Weeping Angels and their perchance for zapping enemies into the past so they can live to death.

Interior page from 'Black Hammer: Age of Doom' #1. Art by Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart, and Todd Klein/Dark Horse Comics

Interior page from ‘Black Hammer: Age of Doom’ #1. Art by Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart, and Todd Klein/Dark Horse Comics

We care about the heroes trapped here, and at last we get an update on the status of their imprisonment. Maybe. It’s truly a pivotal mixed moment of ‘ahhhh’ and ‘awwwp!’. A character suddenly claims to have all the insights, all the pieces of the puzzle, and the return trip ruby slippers for going home. But no spoilers, you must discover for yourselves.

That said, readers are treated to a separate section of the trap, a hellish bit of nastiness called The Anteroom. There, strange, infernal, and dearly departed denizens of the underworld come to drink, commiserate, and share a sad song or three courtesy of not-quite-live performers. Also, to welcome new members among their ranks.

While ghoulishness abounds in the Purgatory taproom, the rest of the Pleasantville inmates are shaken from their complacent despondency by the arrival of Lucy Weber, the new Black Hammer now that she’s accepted her father’s mantle. She bestows a sense of hope and the heroes, both those Farm complicit and those not, quickly line out a plan of action to capitalize on the opportunity she’s afforded. They just may be onto something, since even the fractured but far-seeing Colonel Weird senses the events he’s been swept along by have changed.

The Rod Serling shroud established so well by Lemire and artist Dean Ormston continues to hang over Rockwood and all its residents, each character vulnerable to a sudden case of death. Or at the least, a trip to The Cornfield without notice. Part of the mystery remains in just who their Anthony is–a vengeful past villain, another cosmic entity altogether, or maybe a member of the confined.

Dark Horse Comics/$3.99

Written by Jeff Lemire.

Art by Dean Ormston.

Colors by Dave Stewart.

Letters by Todd Klein.

7.5 out of 10

‘Black Hammer: Age of Doom’ #1 hits stores April 18.

Check out this five-page preview, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics!