Monday, June 27, 2016

Review - Black Hammer #1 (@DarkHorseComics)


"Ten years today since we arrived. Ten years!"

What does a superhero do when they're all done saving the day? Sometimes they'll have a replacement waiting in the wings. Other times they go out in a blaze of glory. Rarely though are they banished to another world and forced to live out their days as "normal" as they do in Black Hammer #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dean Ormston, colored by Dave Stewart and lettered by Todd Klein.

Once they were heroes, but the age of heroes has long since passed. Banished from existence by a multiversal crisis, the old champions of Spiral City—Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Colonel Weird, Madame Dragonfly and Barbalien—now lead simple lives in a timeless farming town. Even as they try to find their way home, trouble has a unique way of finding heroes wherever they are!

Instead of showing superheroes choosing a normal life, Lemire decides to force them into one. The former superheroes in Black Hammer #1 are all struggling to reconcile their new lives on the farm and Lemire does an excellent job of presenting the tensions that come with such an arrangement. In fact, Lemire sets this scenario up quite elegantly by slowly building it up before offering a relatively surprising ending that sets the tone for the direction of the series. The script is paced in a way that lends itself to the smalltown vibe the heroes find themselves in as Lemire has the former heroes laboring through the tedium of life. And the dialogue is very effective in characterizing each hero in a way that allows Lemire to demonstrate their frustration with their current plight.

Part of their arrival on Earth included a slight change of appearance and Ormston does a great job of rendering them in this manner. Many of the characters are literally shells of their former selves as Ormston illustrates them in a seeming contrast to their personalities. There's a roughness to his illustrations that reflects their tired appearance as a result of ten years away from their former lives. Ormston renders the settings in a very simplified way that doesn't stress detail, but the approach mirrors the theme of the first issue. Stewart's colors are a great fit as they add the right amount of pop for the more emotionally important scenes.

The concept of retirement for superheroes is practically unheard of as they'll always feel the need to continue their duties. The superheroes in Black Hammer #1 were forced into retirement and want to get back to their old way of life. Lemire's plot is very interesting and affords the reader a new take on superheroes. Ormston's artwork is very subdued and rugged in a way that effectively captures the mental state of many of the former superheroes. Black Hammer #1 is a somber take on superheroes.

Black Hammer #1 is in stores July 20.

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