‘Black Hammer’ Is My New Favorite Superhero Comic Book
Superhero comics are never in shortage, which means anybody trying to break out in the over-crowded genre is in dire need of creativity. Genre blending is often a tactic that works well to infuse new elements within another genre so that the result is vastly unlike anything we’ve ever read before. Jeff Lemire, one of the best writers in this generation, came up with an idea that combined Golden/Silver Age superheroism with a strong sense of mystery. What we get is Black Hammer, an excellent superhero comic and one that has crawled into my favorites list.
The details surrounding Black Hammer’s creation has been told in various interviews. It was an idea that Lemire wanted to create back in 2007, but other projects kept getting in the way. He was also signed to DC exclusively from 2010 to 2014, which prevented him from doing any outside work. Good ideas don’t fade away, in fact you might say that the long wait only insured the success of the series more. Lemire is a revered name at this point, so anything he’s attached to is going to get plenty of attention. Adding in the talented Dean Ormston was a perfect touch for the artwork.
At the heart of Black Hammer is a colorful cast of (mostly) old superheroes out of their prime. Shortly after a huge battle in Spiral City — even the name sounds superhero-y — with Anti-God, who looks like Darkseid and Galactus did the fusion dance, these heroes are mysteriously transported to the town of Rockwood. They can’t leave past a certain mile radius, and they have no idea why they’re here. Ten years pass with no hope, so we join the dysfunctional family on their farm.
“We explore human emotion with these characters and use the superhero thing more as metaphor than something that drives the plot.”
Much of Black Hammer revolves around what happens when you stop being a hero and how that affects you mentally. It doesn’t help that you’re trapped in a city in some part of the universe for reasons you can’t understand. This is why the series is such a successful superhero comic. Lemire isn’t trying to chase the same obstacles or goals that Marvel or DC would follow. “Why are these heroes the way they are?” is a question that is answered throughout the currently 13 issues. Golden Gail — an old woman who permanently looks young — gets a lot of development from being a rude jerk to understanding how her life in Spiral City caused her to express feelings this way.
Part of the enjoyment comes from the mystery element of wondering why they’re stuck and how it actually happened. To date, the mystery still stands, but we get tiny clues throughout. Things got kickstarted a lot when Lucy, the daughter of Black Hammer shows up, in the same fashion as the other heroes. Her curiosity is what drives the second half — deemed The Event — into a new direction. She’s not content with making a life like everyone else. She doesn’t trust Rockwood.
Lucy, without spoiling, is going to be a big player in the Black Hammer reboot that launches in April. This idea of a reboot/relaunch, titled Age of Doom, isn’t going to switch up everything we — yes, we, because at this point you LOVE it too — enjoy, though. It will introduce some cool new plots that take place right after the end of the cliffhanger found in issue #13.
“One thing BLACK HAMMER has always done is comment on the history of superhero comics and we live in a world where superhero universes seem to be rebooted, relaunched, and rebirthed every year. It felt like we needed to play around with that idea, but put a BLACK HAMMER spin on it.”
The world of Black Hammer is expanding. In the hiatus since #13, there have been two mini spin-offs — Sherlock Frankenstein and Doctor Star — that help to build out the tales and keep readers coming back for more. It seems like any small characters are ripe for their own stories if Lemire and Ormston feel like doing so. Age of Doom #1, without spoiling, looks to be adding a lot of new possible spin-off choices, too.
What the future holds for Black Hammer is uncertain. It’s been praised up and down, but ultimately it lies in the hands of Lemire and Ormston of how long the series will go. In a perfect world, Black Hammer will keep going and going for many years to come. I’ll get a blinged out BH chain. One day we’ll wake up to see AMC pick it up for a TV series. I’ll introduce my future son to Spiral City and its mysteries. We’ll play with action figures together.
Everybody’s gotta have a dream. Otherwise, the characters of Black Hammer wouldn’t exist.