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: ‘The Quantum Age: From the World of Black Hammer’ #1, out July 4 from Dark Horse Comics.
By Clyde Hall. The world of Black Hammer continues to expand under the direction of reality-smith Jeff Lemire, and this latest chapter transcends both space and time. Welcome to Spiral City 3041, where you had better have your authorizations up to date and a verifiable reason to be out past curfew. And be human, because alien life forms are undesirable life forms. Soiled and unsavory as dystopian futures go, it could be worse. But compared to the galaxy as it was a quarter century earlier, it’s a level of the Abyss. Maybe not the 666th floor, but somewhere in the upper 650’s.
Lemire treats us in flashback to twenty-five years past, when a virtual regiment of youthful and optimistic heroes known as The Quantum League applied their talents and can-do attitudes to serving all sentient life in the galaxy and making a positive difference for every planet under their protection. As Lemire’s earlier Black Hammer works have liberally applied layers of Justice Society homage, The Quantum Age: From the World of Black Hammer #1 does reverence to the Legion of Super-Heroes from two very different points in their history. Future history. (Futury?)
Using the Black Hammer centrifuge, Lemire has ably, remarkably, penned great original stories. But most have a foothold in multiverse parallels to worlds we already know and may four-color blessings shower upon him for that. DC hasn’t done more than tip-toe into those respective storyscapes of the fantastic and canonical for half a decade, so more power to a writer of Lemire’s aptitude for ending that period of languish, even unofficially. The notable DC exception? Lemire’s own six-issue “Infinitus Saga” from Justice League United in 2014. Someone get this man a Legion flight ring.
As with most Lemire mini-series, there’s no grass or extraterrestrial foliage growing under any character’s feet as the story countdown begins. We see the Quantum League of 3016 applying their team roster to problems across the cosmos, and that includes Hammer Lass, latest in a line of mystic bludgeon-wielding superheroes. She and fellow Leaguers like Gravity Lad, Archive V, Storm Girl, and Modular Lass deploy as Away Teams to handle diplomatic missions, search and rescue operations, and the interstellar nuisance of moon-eaters. And they do it with the confidence only youth can rally; nothing’s impossible, the future beckons bright, and they have no clue yet that they’re fallible. Or mortal. The reader is also treated to the steadfast loyalty uniting the super-teens, and some behind-the-scenes sweetness not always part of the Silver Age-style stories gets represented here.
Then comes a threat which matures their outlook quickly, one that tests them beyond their limits and exacts a grievous toll. By 3041, those can-do kids are aging and disillusioned adults, or they’re dead. The Terran government is a militant one, unreservedly anti-alien, and enforcing an immutable form of martial law. The universe isn’t sunny nor full of promise now, survival is the only goal, and the altruistic ideals of ‘do-gooders’ are long extinct.
Or are they? Young Trev Trevz is an undesirable alien, a Martian hiding among humans, who seeks the tattered remnants of The Quantum League to once again save the world. Along the way there may also be answers regarding the fate of the 20th Century heroes whose inspiration founded the League a millennium later.
Lemire successfully contrasts the two time periods with elements that float apparition-like from the classic Adventure Comics era of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and the ‘Five Years Later’ Keith Giffen/Tom and Mary Bierbaum tales of LSH Volume 4. More, he delivers it in the heart-rending manner longtime comics fans familiar with the homage’s source material have come to expect, poignantly and on-key.
Wilfredo Torres is the artist, and he manages to represent both the shiny and tarnished versions of Lemire’s future world. His scratchy, Giffen-esque style especially suits the latter era, settling a jaundiced plaque of despair over the former heroes and civilians. Despite Lemire’s retro leanings in these Black Hammer chronicles, the tales themselves always feel fresh, the base material taken in directions we haven’t seen before, but which track as durably sound. And he captures the spirit, the essence, behind those iconic but currently castoff vintage characters masterfully enough to remind us why they and their teams endure. It’s sufficiently powerful to warrant a hearty, “Life and Longevity to the League!”.
Dark Horse Comics/$3.99
Written by Jeff Lemire.
Art by Wilfredo Torres.
Colors by Dave Stewart.
Letters by Nate Piekos.
8 out of 10
‘The Quantum Age: From the World of Black Hammer’ #1 hits stores July 4.
Check out this three-page preview of ‘The Quantum Age: From the World of Black Hammer’ #1, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics!