As one of the hottest and promising talents in the comic book industry, Jeff Lemire has made a career of working with an extensive number of publishing companies including Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Vertigo, Image Comics, Top Shelf Productions and Valiant Entertainment — and he does not plan on stopping there. With his previous work on Noir: A Collection of Crime Comics: “The Old Silo”, Dark Horse Comics is proud to present Jeff Lemire’s creator-owned comic book series, Black Hammer.
Black Hammer is about a group of former superheroes who, ten years ago, disappeared mysteriously after the events of saving Spiral City from a godlike enemy. Their story takes place on a farm where they live a quiet life, putting their superhero past behind them. The comic book features a dysfunctional family who are trying to put up with each other while coping with a basic lifestyle. It is full of characters with diverse personalities, conflicts and attitudes, showcasing Lemire’s writing and characterization skills. Layered with strange mystery and country gothic, Black Hammer #1 is a fascinating and simplistic new take on the superhero genre.
What makes this issue a strong debut is the pacing of the comic book and how Lemire is able to juggle all these different characters. Throughout the issue, readers are able to get a feel of who these characters are through their interactions with one another. Each of them has their own unique personality and character design that differentiates them from the average archetype. Black Hammer #1 does an outstanding job of establishing the main characters, their individual purpose and personal conflict – all through dialogue.
Interestingly enough, the only exposition in the comic book is towards the end in which they explain their origin as a group. This method of storytelling works favorably because while the beginning and middle establish the characters, it is the end that draws you in and makes them even more intriguing. Although the story lacks a clear direction for this group of characters, it is the underlying mystery of how they came to be and where they will go next that makes readers want to look forward to the next issue.
While the characters were superheroes, in terms of character design and personality, there is a strong sense of science fiction embedded into what makes them so different. Not only are they non-archetypal characters, but they are also a strange team of non-conventional superheroes. At first glance, one can argue that they do not look like superheroes at all. When we are first introduced to them, we do not see qualities of heroism, fancy costumes, or flashy superpowers. Instead we are given something far more interesting – a dysfunctional family.
It is a testament to Lemire’s writing how easily he depicts the team’s transition from a group of superheroes who saved a city into a dysfunctional family now trying to cope with everyday life. Their team morale is at an all-time low, some of them cannot be seen in public and, worst of all, they do not know how they ended up on this farm and do not know how to leave.
Overall, Black Hammer #1 is a convincing story about family that takes you on a mysterious journey filled with drama and humor. It is a character study that artist Dean Ormston masterfully sets the tone for and where his penciling and shadowing wonderfully shape Lemire’s world of science fiction and superheroes.