‘Black Hammer #4:’ Comic Book Review

Jeff Lemire is less concerned about telling a superhero story and more concerned about telling a story about what being a superhero means, and what it means to have that responsibility taken away. At least that’s what I thought until reading Issue #4. Bit by bit, it’s becoming about even more than that. It’s about inclusion versus exclusion. Where is a person’s place at in the world? What does a person mean to those around them? As Lemiere digs in, these themes begin to resonate emotionally in ways I wasn’t fully expecting after having read Issue #1

In the fourth issue, Abraham - the sort of father figure of this group of previous superheroes that finds themselves living out their lives on a secluded farm, has invited his love interest over for a family dinner. He’s nervous. He doesn’t trust his angsty and bizarre superhero friends to settle down long enough to act like a real family. As with each issue thus far, the real-time story is coupled with flashbacks from their superhero pasts. Seeing who these characters were as superheroes grounds their emotional state now that they have to hide who they are. What kind of toll does it take on an extraordinary person to have to lie about who they are?

What Lemire is doing is crafting an intricate psychological puzzle and with every piece that’s placed, the mystery of who these people are and how they got to where they are is slowly revealed. With the book structured in such a way and with small revelations, this issue about who Black Hammer was/is; the two ideas feel like they’re going to go hand in hand.

Tonally, the really fun thing about this book is watching Lemire play with Golden Age comic book tropes during the flashbacks. Specifically, this issue includes one of the most hilarious, pun-based villain names I’ve ever seen. This world creates a stark contrast to what these heroes have become. Dean Ormston’s art is really growing on me. He seamlessly connects the Golden Age feel with the current, modern comic book feel and frames his images to accentuate how these characters feel in their spaces. It’s incredibly well thought out. It doesn’t hurt that the impeccable Dave Stewart is on colors, capturing the emotional resonance and textures of the world. The detail in lettering from Todd Klein also helps navigate these two realities. Black Hammer is turning out to be a real piece of art on all fronts.

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