Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artwork: Max Fimuara, Dave Stewart (colours), Nate Piekos of Blambot (lettering)
Release Date: 7th March 2018
Hot on the heels of the fantastic “Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil”, Dark Horse Comics have wasted little time in publishing another spin-off series set in the world of Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Eisner Award-winning Black Hammer.
This new story is based around Jim Robinson, AKA Doctor Star, a Golden-Age superhero who, years after his retirement, is still lamenting on some of the decisions he made during both his personal and crime-fighting career. Flitting between the past and the present, this first issue shows us how he got his powers, lets us witness his first moments as superhero, and gives us an insight into some of the regret and sadness he feels as he looks back on his life.
By this point, Jeff Lemire’s track record should pretty much speak for itself, but there seems to be something about his Black Hammer universe that inspires him to up his game even more – something which is readily apparent here with this fascinating new series.
While the first spinoff was a fairly energetic mystery story with a cast of colourful characters and a mixture of humour and bold twists and turns, this is a far more grounded, far more melancholy affair. Yes, there’s the same colourful cast of characters and the same familiar superhero tropes, but this series is noticeably more contemplative and character-based than Lucy Weber’s investigation into the disappearance of her superhero father.
Fiumara’s artwork is pretty much the perfect choice to bring the tone of this series to life, with an understated style and some weary, exhausted-looking characters. There’s an impressive level of detail and expression throughout (as you can see from the ten-page preview below) and he also shows that he’s more than capable of cutting loose when needed – such as the moment when Doctor Robinson finally makes the jump to the para-zone – which bodes incredibly well for the series as it progresses.
Extra credit should also be paid to Dave Stewart, who uses a muted colour palette to give the book some much-needed physical depth, and Nate Piekos, whose lettering – particularly during the sections where the Doctor is narrating by writing a letter – really helps to keep Lemire’s story flowing smoothly.
The final page ‘twist’ is admittedly telegraphed a mile away, but is still rewarding enough to give the series a real sense of emotion and poignancy moving forward. And, while Black Hammer has made its mark by providing an intriguing insight into the men and women behind the capes and cowls, this promises to be one of the most intimate – and potentially heart-breaking – stories so far.
If you’re already a Black Hammer fan then this should be viewed as an absolutely essential purchase, but given the strength of both the writing and the artwork, this could also be looked at as an equally enjoyable stand-alone series. Highly recommended either way.
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