I’ve spoken about my love of Black Hammer, as I’ve read almost every issue in the expanded universe, but one thing I haven’t said about it is that it’s one of the more curious superhero universes I’ve dived into. For instance, in the main story, certain characters fall into an incredibly meta aspect of this universe, which makes it possible for pretty much anything to happen. With that in mind, most all of the other stories have played within the boundaries of the said universe as opposed to going bonkers, filling in a rich history with an alternate timeline of superhero world events, but also filling in the already rich lives of our heroes. It has remained, above all things, incredibly human. In this issue of Black Hammer: Visions, Chip Zdarsky and Johnnie Christmas bring us a tale of an aging Abraham Slam and all of the existential crises that come with it.
Abe is essentially the leader of the group who gets stuck on the farm. He’s a hero without the super element. A trained boxer with a punch, and that’s it. What Zdarsky has done here is taken some of those tropes of a boxing story and mapped it over the story of an aging hero. Jeff Lemire, with this phase in the Black Hammer world, is giving us a shift in tone and themes. Instead of the lingering sadness of the first phase of stories in the Black Hammer world, there is an acceptance portrayed, a hope that’s earned. If one thing isn’t possible… perhaps another thing equally as fulfilling is. This issue is a boxing drama, plain and simple, and it’s really quite lovely.
The usual cinematic flair of a superhero comic is avoided to match the more realistic tone of this story. Aside from a different color palette, it’s almost like watching Million Dollar Baby. Christmas shows us a visual confidence in his images, and the subtlety in Dave Stewart’s colors is quite affecting. The usual bright reds and vibrant greens are toned down, softened, almost like the world around Abe is an echo of what it once was. The care that these different creators show us demonstrates that this world means as much to them as it does to creators Lemire and Dean Ormston. I will continue to rally for people to dive into the series like I once did. These stories matter.
Creative Team: Chip Zdarsky (script), Johnnie Christmas (art), Nate Piekos of Blambot (letters), Dave Stewart (colors), Daniel Chabon (editor), Ethan Kimberling (design), Josie Christensen (digital art technician), Chuck Howitt and Konner Knudsen (assistant editors)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
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