Winner of the 2017 “Best New Series” Eisner Award, Black Hammer, returns for another incredible issue. This issue expands on Barbalien’s relationship with the town’s priest and the fallout of the previous issue. Barbalien is facing bigotry at work and is experiencing doubt at whether he belongs. Meanwhile, Golden Gail may have finally reached her breaking point. Lucy Weber continues to explore the strange town and inability to crack why she can’t remember how she got there. I purposely don’t want to give away too much on the story as you should experience it for yourself and my words wouldn’t do justice to it.
Black Hammer is intriguing in how it uses a respectful homage to Golden Age (and in the previous issue, 90s) heroes to tell grounded, personal stories. The work is powerful, mysterious, and emotional. As we get further into the story, we aren’t necessarily closer to filling in the pieces of the puzzle, but we’ve explored these characters in great depth. Their struggle to just cope is handled in a serious, realistic manner. The scenes in this issue between Gail and Barbalien were touching and the highlight of the issue for me.
Dean Ormston can convey so much with his art and the restraint in dialogue is impressive. When we do get dialogue, it comes across as more impactful because of how the story has been presented. A lot of modern books feel the need for copious amounts of dialogue to convey what could/should be shown in art. That isn’t the case here and it makes this book a joy to experience. Where this book also excels is in the quiet moments and transitions between scenes. You get a moment to pause and reflect on a scene before moving forward. The pacing could be considered slow, especially in this particular issue, but I felt it was just right. This is truly masterful work being done here. Students of this medium should study how each panel is framed and how the story flows. I give the credit to both Ormston and Lemire. Based on seeing previous internal notes for his work at Valiant, I believe Lemire likes to tightly script his stories, but I can’t imagine anyone else executing this series as perfectly as Ormston does. This is such a perfect collaboration and they are worthy of any praise and awards provided to them.
This is storytelling at its finest and yet another strong issue in one of the finest books of recent memory. I have a tough time criticizing this book because I wouldn’t change anything given the option. I feel so attached to these characters and the curiosity of seeing how this will eventually end. Every issue has been a thoughtful, emotional experience. If you haven’t yet experienced Black Hammer, buy the previous issues, and get on board. You will not regret it. 5 out of 5 stars!
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Dean Ormston
Published by Dark Horse