Superheroes are so ingrained in our culture, we clamor for tickets to see them and their creators. From movies, to tubs of ice cream we see these mythological figures created by people with just pens, pencils and paper and we adore them. But what if we lived in a world where they were real and one day, the last ones among the heroes were taken from us to a faraway place they can’t escape? That’s the story of Black Hammer. The Eisner Award-Winning series by Jeff Lemire with art primarily by Dean Ormston. Why should you read it? Well, let’s talk about it.
Stories like Watchmen take characters created to parallel established characters, and tell a story of dread. Black Hammer can be compared to Watchmen, but only in the way that it uses stand-ins for other heroes and concepts from well-known comics. Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Barbailan, Madame Dragonfly, Colonel Weird and his partner Talky Walky are trapped in the small farm town of Rockwood, where they can never leave. Trapped for 10 years after an epic clash with the greatest force of the cosmos, The Ani-God and losing their fellow hero Black Hammer!… You didn’t get a lick of that, did you? Neither did I when first opened the first issue of this series only to see an old man on a farm embarking on his morning chores.
As the story unfolds, you begin to see the comparisons these characters have to legendary icons or even fusions of multiple ideals these icons held. Abraham Slam bears a striking Resemblance to Captain America but without one crucial thing. Golden Gail is so similar to DC’s Shazam, but her powers are more of a curse than a gift. Barbalian reminds you so much of Martian Manhunter and even the fictional character John Carter of Mars, but the reason he left the red planet is much different and connects with some readers in the closest of ways. They are only some of the parallel characters throughout this series, with the title character being the weirdest of all fusing Norse Mythology and DC’s New Gods into a very interesting new product. Throughout it all, We see pain, heartbreak, self-acceptance, and joy, all in single issues of this multiple volume story. The story isn’t over yet, and there are still volumes being released on a near-monthly basis.
Jeff Lemire crafts this narrative that speaks to you and makes you connect to the struggle of these characters and even makes you sympathetic for some of the hard decisions made. Throughout all of it, each issue makes you appreciate the iconography of comic books and gain immense respect for them as a medium. The art by Dean Ormston gives the entire series this very dark parody and horror element that the book needs in a lot of ways. You have things like in flashbacks before the entrapment of our heroes, Abraham Slam is touted on by younger heroes as a fossil who needs to let the new generation take over. There are moments of Madame Dragonfly, whose story is reminiscent of old horror comics, where it genuinely terrifies you but then makes you feel for this cursed woman whose life is ruined by making the wrong choice. Ormston creates an iconic form for this book that is unique and perfect for the story being told.
With it in its second volume, titled Black Hammer: Age of Doom, Lemire himself has spun the series into multiple side stories both in the past, present, and future, using this series as a vehicle to take a deeper look at the tropes and ideas from not just superhero comics but storytelling itself. Stories of love, tales of suspense, heroism and true evil. All in one universe that is continually expanding. This writer has gone in every direction that DC and Marvel do in 50+ titles each that he began with one and isn’t even at 10 yet. Science Fiction, Magic, mystery stories, and of course your basic flying hero in a cape. It has such a connection to the comic books we read every week, that it’s even getting a crossover with the Justice League later this year. This story is something almost every comic fan can enjoy and it’s at your local comic stand, right now.