Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dean Ormston
Release Date: 20th July, 2016
When I think of “pulp comics” these days, I’m instantly drawn to two companies; Image, with their much more serious crime/dramas (and some might say more serious thrillers), and Dark Horse Comics, who have been doing something truly special. In my mind anyway, they’ve managed to capture the whimsy of pulp; there’s a brightness to it all that makes it feel more era appropriate, or even just (ironically) less dark?
With Black Hammer, Lemire is throwing his hat in the ring, and what a hat it is. A rough breakdown of the story would be that an amalgam of The Justice League and The Avengers have got stuck in a small town for ten years and are just trying to get on with their lives. Okay, so it might not sound like much, but with an art team made up of Dean Ormston – who seems to have a style just close enough to greats like Kirby and Frank Quitely that it’s recogniseable and familiar – and Dave Stewart on colour, it’s an incredibly readable first issue.
I’ve waxed lyrical on countless occasions in the past about just how much I love Stewart’s work, and he has done another stellar job here, setting the tone between flashbacks and present day and perfectly understanding what palette is needed for each. There’s a definite familiarity to the character design and nods to certain well-known heroes, but it’s how Ormston manages to make them seem like normal people (think Superman when Clark Kent puts glasses on and stoops) even when they’re clearly not.
The strangest thing Lemire has done with the story is just how intriguing he has managed to make it with only a standard issue size to work with. The first issue is so dense, managing to set up roughly who each of the characters are and how they got stuck, as well a providing a small glimpse into their current lives in the town. The impressive thing about it is that it never seems like a slog or information overload. The issue itself is perfectly structured so that you’ll want to know more by the end, which is pretty much the main goal of a first issue, right?
Each character could have their own book and I still wouldn’t be happy. Managing to straddle the like between superheroes and small-town mystery, Black Hammer provides a unique take on a story we’ve – at least at first glance – possibly all heard in some form before. It’s actually very similar to a pilot episode of a TV series, with so many questions posed and so many potential arcs set up that it simply needs to continue, if only to provide some much-needed answers. I have so many questions!
My only gripe with the first issue is it toes that line a little too closely, and if handled incorrectly, could potentially be heartbreaking. We all remember how amazing the first few episodes of Lost were, right?
For fans of Twin Peaks and Kingdom Come alike, this is a book you’ll want to get on board with from the very first issue, before sitting back and getting comfortable for what promises to be one hell of a ride.
If you want to find out more about Black Hammer, make sure to check out our interview with series writer Jeff Lemire by CLICKING HERE.
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