Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer - Chaos McKenzie
I’ve been a big fan of Dean Ormston’s shaky black inks since the never collected Vertigo series The Girl Who Would Be Death, which was an amazing miniseries that got lost in the deluge of Sandman spinoffs born at the time. He would go on to deliver some of my favourite issues of the highly superior Lucifer by Mike Carey. I can’t deny his art brought me to this book before I even realised Jeff Lemire’s name. Now Lemire’s work doesn’t always land with me, nothing wrong with that, as we all get tickled in different ways. I have love for some, and when one does tickle me, it tickles me good.
There is a lot of familiar tropes on display here: the lost comic book heroes, the parallel universes, the strange and mysterious trying to fit in with small town life, but what I love about Black Hammer is how subtle Lemire is with all those tropes. Instead of going the distance, twisting them up, breaking them down, pasting together the pieces so that the tropes become almost unrecognizable, Lemire makes small changes and reversals on classic formulas without trying to reinvent the wheel entirely. It’s all very restrained, subtle, and infinitely more impactful for it. It was a fun read for me, as I felt less a need to be ALL-NEW and ALL-DIFFERENT, and more a genuine concern of character within a topsy-turvy plot. It was a very rewarding read and I’m eager to see the next volumes expand on what’s being laid out here. There are some really subtle and original twists, in particular a Martian Manhunter analogue that I particularly enjoyed.
I can’t really think of a better comparison here than the little known British cartoon Captain Star, who’s stuck in the wilderness of an absurdist sketch. Black Hammer captures that juxtaposition of reality and absurdity wonderfully well.
Dark Horse Comics – Black Hammer vol.1 Secret Origins
Jeff Lemire / Dean Ormston / Dave Stewart