Advance Review – The Quantum Age: From the World of Black Hammer #1 (Dark Horse)

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Wilfredo Torres
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Nate Piekos
Release Date: July 4th 2018

For the latest expansion of his critically acclaimed Black Hammer world, Jeff Lemire has made the bold decision to launch us a thousand years into the future, introducing us to The Quantum League, a collection of heroes who are battling to save the planet from an unknown threat.

Courtesy of two intertwining time periods set twenty-five years apart, we quickly discover that they weren’t exactly successful in this task, with the world now being ruled over by an authoritarian regime and a young man doing whatever he can to try and get the old band back together for one last mission.

Before I dive into the meat of the review, I want to make something clear – this isn’t a bad comic by any stretch of the imagination.  But the fact remains that when you slap the words “Black Hammer” on a cover, there comes with it a certain level of expectation.  Expectation which, I’m sad to say, Quantum Age hasn’t quite met just yet.

Firstly, the story’s existence in the “world of Black Hammer” is, for the time being at least, fairly tenuous.  Yes, there’s a distant descendent of Joe Weber, and the Justice League-esque collection of heroes are seemingly inspired by the well-known heroes of the farm, but the bulk of this first issue reads like familiar cosmic superhero fare, with none of the smart subversion that made the original Black Hammer such a hit.

Unless you count a cosmic super-powered Armadillo, I suppose.

It’s well-written and interesting enough, but based on this first issue, this almost feels like an entirely fresh superhero sci-fi series that has been stamped with the Black Hammer logo in order to make it more appealing.  Now obviously I’m only basing that on a single issue, and it’s perfectly possible things could expand significantly as the story unfolds, but for the time being there’s just nothing particularly Black Hammer-y at play here.

Thankfully, the narrative is bolstered significantly by the typically strong artwork of Wilfredo Torres.  Slick and stylised, he does a fantastic job of bringing the dystopian future to life in an unusually tidy way.  This isn’t a world of burned-out cards and crumbling buildings, but a clean future where curfews are strictly enforced and the government controls everything.

Torres also does a fantastic job with the scenes featuring the Quantum League themselves, and watching this collection of colourful, brilliantly-designed superhero archetypes doing their thing is certainly more than enough to keep the pages turning.  Dave Stewart rounds out the visual package with some impressively rich colours, using the solidity of Torres’ lines to create an almost cel-shaded aesthetic that really makes the pages pop.

At the end of the day, it’s a great looking book, and Lemire has certainly crafted the beginnings of what has the potential to be an intriguing story.  But at the same time, there’s just no getting away from the fact that Quantum Age feels like it lacks the same spark of creativity that has made the world of Black Hammer so utterly captivating.

Promisingly, the final pages hint at a stronger thematic link to the original Black Hammer series, but for the time being this feels like a slight misstep from a property that has pretty much redefined the world of creator-owned superhero comics.  I’ll still be sticking around to see if things improve, though.  The pedigree of the creators justifies that, at least.

Rating: 3.5/5.


ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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