Black Hammer #5 has the wandering poeticism of Alan Moore’s early work on Swamp Thing. The great thing about Jeff Lemire’s creation is that with multiple characters, each issue can skew in style and tone to match their perspectives, and by shifting perspectives with each issue, the depth to which we are beginning to understand these characters in only five issues is wondrous and heartbreaking.
The basic idea is that a group of Golden Age superheroes who were perhaps becoming ineffective to modern-day villains and, therefore, inconsequential, find themselves on a farm that may or may not be their own reality. They have no way to escape this farm. Except for a small town nearby, there really doesn’t seem to be an outside world, but our once heroes have to now act like a family. The heroes themselves are incredibly diverse in temperament and skill set, but that isn’t what matters so much. What matters most is how they now feel about their plights and the conflict that arises from each character’s perspective.
In this issue we explore a character named Colonel Weird who, in the last issue, pulled off the tremendous feat of bringing tears to my eyes. To delve into why is just as heartbreaking as the others. Whereas something like Garth Ennis’ The Boys shows us that superheroes are basically the worst kind of jerks, Lemire’s Black Hammer shows us that they are all human, just as confused and bewildered by their place in life as we are. As somber as it is, there is something heartening and comforting about that, especially with such a difficult time in the world around us.
Dean Ormston and Dave Stewart working as the art team have created something truly original and magnetic, and in this issue they have given us imagery that is both beautiful and horrifying.
The reason why all this works is because the base reality that this team has created allows them to get as weird as they want. The emotions and themes they are dealing with are genuinely universal. Every reaction from the reader is worked for and earned.