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 collected volume of ‘The Quantum Age: From the World of ‘Black Hammer’’, out May 1 from Dark Horse Comics.

‘The Quantum Age: From the World of 'Black Hammer' Vol. 1' TPB: The DoomRocket Review
Cover to ‘The Quantum Age: From the World of ‘Black Hammer’ Vol. 1′ TPB. Art: Wilfredo Torres, Dave Steward/Dark Horse Comics

THIS REVIEW OF ‘THE QUANTUM AGE VOL. 1’ TPB CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.

by Brendan Hodgdon. When it comes to superhero universes, DC and Marvel cast very long shadows. Not only do they have a breadth and depth of history that most newer attempts can’t hope to match, but they have so fully shaped the archetypes for superheroes that anything new is going to feel like a reaction to them. It takes a singular voice and undeniable talent to accomplish anything new in the cape and cowl genre. That of course explains why Jeff Lemire & Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer has been such a success so far. And with the help of Wilfredo Torres, Lemire has expanded on Black Hammer to remarkable effect with Quantum Age.

At first blush, Quantum Age seems like a more traditional superhero tale than the somber, inside-voice aesthetic that often defines the central Black Hammer titles. One could be forgiven for writing it off initially as a lark, a disposable tack-on to Lemire’s work with Ormston. Through the first few issues of the collection, there is no lack of thoughtful character beats, but it also moves more quickly and has more standard action than the original series does. And it’s clear that this tale of a far-future hero team versus a dystopian regime is aiming to be a different sort of Hammerverse story. But make no mistake: Lemire and Torres have crafted a tale just as thoughtful, resonant and relevant as any other volume thus far.

In this case, the story is not (primarily) about the personal torment of heroes trapped on the farm; indeed, Lemire’s traditional pastoral angst is not present here. Rather, his script casts a wider net, with elements of this future era’s xenophobic dystopia clearly meant to reflect the fear-mongering nature of our present. And beyond that, Lemire seems interested in initiating a call to action, in overcoming the fear and ennui that many now feel and that his characters so compassionately represent. He does this as both commentary on our world and to provide catharsis for some classic Black Hammer characters. Along the way Lemire’s script keeps it all tied to theme, and keeps things accessible for readers not completely caught up with the core narrative.

In this volume, Lemire is joined by Wilfredo Torres, who is already no stranger to creator-owned superhero spinoffs (having drawn Jupiter’s Circle for Mark Millar). Torres is a great fit here despite his stylistic distance from Ormston, and he draws the Silver Age-y character designs with real pizzazz and surprising emotional heft. His work on the Archive chapter in particular is gorgeous and evocative, with perfect layouts and heartbreaking imagery. Despite its larger scope, Quantum Age still builds heavily on inner turmoil for its characters, and it was essential that the artist drawing it be able to convey that well. Wilfredo Torres lives up to this task and then some.

Smoothing the gap in style between Black Hammer and Quantum Age is the presence of original series colorist Dave Stewart and letterer Todd Klein. Stewart maintains a similar subdued tone to his colors, though in the context of this story it feels more representative of the oppressive dystopian backdrop than the depression and loneliness of the other books. And Klein, supporting lead letterer Nate Piekos here, continues to have fun throwing out different speech bubble styles and fonts for various characters. There’s a peculiar thrill in seeing the rounded-rectangle-and-block-letters dialogue of android characters, and Piekos and Klein seem to share that thrill in crafting it.

One of the consistent through-lines of Black Hammer’s various iterations is a clear, unambiguous love for classic superhero stories, and that continues beautifully in Quantum Age. Jeff Lemire, Wilfredo Torres and their team clearly share an enthusiasm for stories like this, and that alone makes this latest entry into the Hammerverse a worthy inclusion. But it’s seeing Black Hammer’s blistering human emotions directed through a more proactive, power-to-the-people story that makes Quantum Age a universally special volume.

Dark Horse Comics/$19.99

Written by Jeff Lemire.

Art by Wilfredo Torres.

Colors by Dave Stewart.

Letters by Nate Piekos of Blambot and Todd Klein.

8.5 out of 10

‘The Quantum Age: From the World of ‘Black Hammer’ Vol. 1′ TPB hits stores May 1.

Check out this 6-page preview of ‘The Quantum Age: From the World of ‘Black Hammer’ Vol. 1′ TPB, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics!

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