The basic story of the Dark Horse Comics series Black Hammer is a that a disparate group of superheroes have been trapped on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Closely resembling more recognizable superheroes, the group can go into town, but if they try to leave the area, they die. They know this because the mightiest of the bunch, Black Hammer, died that way.
The secret of the farm is revealed in the first part of the Age of Doom storyline.
Lucy Weber, daughter of the original Black Hammer, having taken up her father’s mantel and powers, has come to the farm and she has some answers as to why she, Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Barbalien, Madame Dragonfly,and Colonel Weird have been stuck on this farm, a decade for all of them save Lucy. But then she vanishes in an expected magical effect. Someone sent her away–to Hell, as it turns out–and she will need to fight her way back. Meanwhile, Abe and Barbie’s respective love lives are suddenly improving, and other discrepancies seem to be resolving themselves in the heroes’ favor. But Lucy is a bit too powerful to be kept in the afterlife, and when she returns, secrets are revealed, and the Black Hammer story will never be the same.
As someone who reads a lot of comics, particularly superhero comics, I do appreciate being surprised as to where a story goes, and I can honestly say I did not see what was coming in this case. Previous volumes have hinted Madame Dragonfly was a less-than-benevolent soul and that she and Colonel Weird had something to do with the heroes being trapped. As it turns out, this is true…but I don’t want to say the exact nature of the farm here. It’s a bit too good not to let readers find out for themselves, but even the motives for Dragonfly and Weird are not what the reader might have assumed them to be from earlier volumes.
But that comes at the end of the trade, collecting the first five issues of the Age of Doom series. As the title suggests, there is a feeling of doom in the air, and the heroes may or may not be up to the task. Prior to their becoming trapped, they weren’t, for the most part, the best of the best so much as the only ones left after a particularly nasty cosmic villain, the Anti-God, attacked the Earth. But that’s only part of the overall point of the plot as much of the story goes into the different characters’ own peculiar quirks and issues. Most of them are outright lonely and just glad for some company outside their tight circle. But Lucy won’t sit still, and her trip through Hell (where, it is suggested, that horror comics are a close cousin to superhero stories) is particularly fun. Writer Jeff Lemire’s work here often depicts thinly disguised versions of other characters, and this one features some knock-off Vertigo characters, most notably the Endless and a quick look at a character that is perhaps the lead from Lemire’s early Vertigo work Sweet Tooth. But really, this was a great twist that really resets the status quo and ends on a good cliffhanger. I really love me some Black Hammer. 9.5 out of 10 undead superhero escorts.