Advance Review – Black Hammer/Justice League: Hammer of Justice #1 (Dark Horse/DC)

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics/DC
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Michael Walsh
Letterer: Nate Piekos
Release Date: 10th July 2019

One of the more enjoyable things to witness over the last couple of years is the gradual expansion of the world of Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer.  Delving into the past, present and future of the main ongoing title, Lemire has written a variety of miniseries featuring artwork from the likes of David Rubín, Max Fiumara and Wilfredo Torres, each adding a huge amount of depth and nuance to the Eisner Award-winning juggernaut.

Next month, however, Lemire and artist Michael Walsh are taking the cast of Black Hammer into previously uncharted waters in an eagerly anticipated crossover with DC’s Justice League.  I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to take an early look at the first issue, and I’m happy to report that it delivers a strong, patient opening that seems intent on capitalizing of the raw potential of this idea.

Like the vast majority of these kinds of crossovers, the reason for the two worlds coming together is attributed to some sort of vaguely-defined magic (in this case, a mysterious stranger), but the sheer potential of Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Barbalian and the others being transported to Metropolis to tackle the threat of Starro – while Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman et al are transported to the “farm” to take a break – is simply too much fun for the reader to waste any time overanalyzing the mechanics.

Michael Walsh does a stellar job on the visual side of the book, delivering what we’re promised is an in-continuity slice of storytelling that feels truly faithful to the main story.  It transports us back to the early issues of the ongoing series, and Walsh delivers instantly recognizable versions of the familiar Black Hammer cast.  His style is noticeably a little softer than Ormston’s (an effect which is only emphasised by the slightly muted colour palette he uses), but fits the slightly offbeat tone of this story perfectly. He also, it has to be said, does a pretty darm impressive job with the iconic DC legends, complete with a crackling large-scale skirmish on the streets of Metropolis.

While it does feel like it’s over before it really gets going, the structure of this opening chapter is smart, with the opening and closing parts of the issue mirroring each other as the groups of heroes find themselves swapping places.  It’s going to be interesting to see whether they actually cross paths as the story unfolds, but for now the appeal of seeing them dealing with each other’s situations is going to make this an easy series to get invested in.

While it could have very easily have ended up feeling like a cheap, superficial or slightly tacky “gimmick crossover”, this is actually anything but, with Lemire and Walsh putting together a sharp, thoughtful opening issue that promises much for the rest of this story.  The world of Black Hammer has offered up some of the absolute best comics of the last few years, and when all’s said and done, this series has the potential to end up right there at the top of that list.

Rating: 4.5/5.


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