The first volume of Black Hammer, collecting issues #1-6, is a family drama with superheroes, a robot, and a gay alien. It’s The Twilight Zone meets the Golden Age of comics. Here’s my review.
Black Hammer Vol. 1: Secret Origins
Story: Jeff Lemire
Art: Dean Ormston
Colors: Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse
Welcome to Black Hammer
Black Hammer Farm is named after a fallen comrade of six strange individuals. Most people town think the residents of this farm is just a family of reclusive weirdos from the city, but they have no idea.
Abraham Slam is actually a scrappy street-level crimefighter. Golden Gail is a traditional superhero with super strength and flight. Barbalien is a shapeshifting Martian. Colonel Weird is a space adventurer with a robot sidekick named Talky-Walky. Madame Dragonfly is a witchy guardian of a cabin full of horrors.
You’d think with that cast of characters, Black Hammer is just about an Avengers-type superhero team, with members pulled from different comic book genres, going on classic superhero adventures. That would be great, but that’s not what this is about.
Black Hammer is more about the (chosen) family drama between these six individuals and their struggle of trying to find a way to escape the town, which they are somehow trapped in, than action and traditional superhero conflicts.
It’s unlike anything we’ve already seen in comics. It’s unique. It’s fresh. And yet, it uses comics book elements we’re already familiar with.
The World of Black Hammer
As we see the group dealing with their current predicament and personal issues, we also get a glimpse of their previous lives and how they ended up on the farm.
The world inhabited by our protagonists resemble the Golden Age of comics, throwing us back to a time of wholesome patriotic crimefighting, exciting space adventures, mind-boggling science fiction, and blood-curdling horror.
Almost every major genre of comics is represented here. Fans of comic books in general will get a kick out of how Black Hammer references and pays homage to different comic book tropes.
The main characters themselves are representations of major character archetypes in comics, some with an interesting twist.
Abraham Slam is Captain America without the shield and super-soldier serum. Golden Gail is an analog of Captain Marvel (the Shazam one) but instead of a child turning into an adult superhero, it’s the other way around. Barbalien is basically Martian Manhunter but red and gay. Colonel Weird is Adam Strange with a mind shattered by time and space. Madame Dragonfly is one of those haunted house caretakers that introduce horror stories.
Even without the story’s ongoing mystery and drama, Black Hammer is a joy to read because it celebrates comic books in a way we haven’t seen before.
Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston have not just crafted an engrossing family drama with fun science fiction, superhero, and occult elements, but they’ve given us a wonderful celebration of comics as well.
I’m late to the Black Hammer party and I regret not joining it sooner. Now I can’t wait to read the rest of the series and explore the other characters and concepts spinning off of it. This Sherlock Frankenstein dude in particular seems to be right up my alley.
I’m adding the first volume of Black Hammer to The List as the new #1 because it has a lot of things I love about old school comic books with a modern twist. It’s a clever way to celebrate comics of the past while moving the medium forward to a bright future.
Black Hammer Vol. 1: Secret Origins is available now wherever fine comic books are sold.