July 21, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Comic Review: Black Hammer Volume 1

A group of superheroes has been trapped in a rural town for ten years in this mature re-imagining of the Silver Age.

Jenny recently asked the Gabbing Geek bullpen for some comic recommendations.  Among the many suggestions, Ryan went so far as to say even known curmudgeon Watson would like Black Hammer.

Well, that was a good enough reason for me to dig the first volume, subtitled Secret Origins, from my unread stack.

Black Hammer is the story of a group of six superheroes who are, for reasons unknown, stranded in a small, rural town.  It’s implied one member of their group, the title character of the series Black Hammer, had attempted to leave, and, well, died suddenly.  The remaining six have been stranded there ever since.  They all somewhat correspond to various DC and Marvel heroes, and all but one gets something of an origin story in this first trade.  The six are:  Abraham Slam (Captain America), a non-powered old man who couldn’t get into the army and who seems to kinda like their situation; Golden Gail (Mary Marvel), a superpowered child that is stuck at the physical age of ten with the mind of an adult; Barbalien (Martian Manhunter), an alien hero from the planet Mars with a secret of his own; Colonel Weird (equal parts Adam Strange and Rip Hunter), a disembodied space hero of some kind who doesn’t seem to literally be all there; Talky-Walky, the Colonel’s 1950s style robot sidekick; and Madame Dragonfly, who’s less a superhero and more the host character from an old comics horror anthology series, making her more of a Madame Xanadu type.

Writer Jeff Lemire in his epilogue says he came up with the concept of Black Hammer at a time when he figured he’d never get to write either of the Big Two’s superheroes (yeah, about that…), and much of what we see here isn’t so much a traditional superhero story as showing characters who used to be superheroes and more like people with personal problems.  Abraham, for example, is romancing a waitress in town whose ex-husband is the hostile local sheriff.  Barbalien wants a certain kind of companionship, and Gail wants to be treated like the adult she actually is.  Theoretically, Colonel Weird and Madame Dragonfly could potentially escape at any time, but there’s something more going on with one of them, only hinted at by the end of the book.  Artist Dean Ormston does a good job with a non-traditional superhero comic, and the whole thing was just cool from start to finish.  Check this one out, Jenny.  Ten out of ten unusual boyfriends.