The Black Hammer Library Edition collects both volumes of the series along with a ton of bonus content including raw sketches and alternate covers. This beautifully put together hardcover book would look great in any collection, under any circumstance, be it next to another one of Jeff Lemire’s critically acclaimed works or next to a bible. Dark Horse has outdone themselves lately with releasing more than one collection that will make fans break their “digital only” rule to overcrowd their shelves, yet again, with more clutter. I think Black Hammer is worth it, and I am not even a hoarder.
Black Hammer contends with Watchmen for the best “aging, disillusioned, non-licensed superheroes who represent actual licensed superheroes” comic book. Their execution is obviously different, but like any good riff, Black Hammer maintains the themes of Watchmen to a surprising (and possibly unnecessary) degree. As a fan of the Watchmen, I am glad to see it maintains the pedigree that kept me invested in it as a work of classic comic book-ery, and more of that kind of story telling is always welcome on my desk. Now, if you do not care for Watchmen or find its meta-natural storytelling to be trite or masturbatory, then Black Hammer might not be for you either.
Basically, a group of aging superheroes from the Golden Age of comic books find themselves trapped in a mysterious town that they cannot escape from. Black Hammer himself is at the helm of the mystery, as something mysteriously happened to him, which is both a mystery to our main characters and the reader. This, in turn, causes mysterious consequences to befall our lost heroes, as they must navigate life in this town while pursuing an answer to the mystery at hand.
Please, see the image below as confirmation that this is both true, and also, a mystery.
What can we say about Jeff Lemire’s writing that I have not already gushed about in previous reviews? I don’t know, but I made a list of new things I noticed:
- Does not insult the audience.
- Takes overly complicated concepts and brings them back to easily digestible and relatable emotion.
- Plays with age in a new and interesting way.
- Understands loss, regret, and the grief that follows.
- Plays with trauma in uplifting ways that can sometimes turn on the characters (much like in real life).
Those are five new things I have not said about Lemire already. He is brilliant. Read literally anything by him and you will agree.
Dean Ormston is a seasoned veteran artist, dealing in the macabre and creepy-scary-spooky tales. The art is heavily inspired by 1950s B-movie sci-fi, along with elements that are reminiscent of Universal Classic Monsters. The character of Madame Dragonfly is straight out of something I would have enjoyed in Tales from the Crypt. At one point, they fight a monster named C’Thou Lou, which could be straight out of an Ed Wood film. Some of his imagery is so conceptually blended between Golden Age throwback and modern aesthetic that it demands mentioning. This is a great example of concept-to-life storytelling that interprets, but never distracts.
You will receive deep seeded, rich, and ultimately cathartic enjoyment out of the story. Sometimes, it can be nice to sit down with an idea and truly bask in the glow of the creator “nailing it.” Black Hammer gives you this opportunity. It’s a ride. It’s a tear-jerking nostalgia-fest. It’s asks questions most people forget to ask until their deathbed. And, at the end of the day, Black Hammer is mysterious. Who does not love a good mystery?
Creative Team: Jeff Lemire (writer), Dean Ormston (art)
Publisher: Dark Horse
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