REVIEW: Sherlock Frankenstein & The Legion of Evil: From the World of Black Hammer #1

Black Hammer was an amazing Eisner award-winning series that mixed modern, gripping storytelling with Golden and Silver age inspired heroes. A team of Spiral City’s greatest heroes defeated the cosmic Anti-God and then vanished. In this issue, we follow Lucy Weber, the daughter of Black Hammer, as she tracks down what happened to her father and Spiral City’s finest heroes. With our heroes gone, she decides approaching their greatest villains is her best option for finding out what happened.

Jeff Lemire has created a mysterious world with incredible depth. Each character he introduces drops off just enough cues to hint towards a vast backstory. You could easily pluck any supporting character out of this issue (and the main Black Hammer series) and give them their own title. For example, in this issue, we are introduced to a former hero who is now a warden, and in just a few panels, Lemire masterfully gives us hints to his backstory and trumps him up enough for us to know why we should respect him. I instantly wanted to know more about that character and see his previous adventures. Mectoplasm is another character introduced here that is so mysterious, yet fully formed.

The premise of this series is intriguing because it takes place prior to the events of the original series. Existing Black Hammer readers already know a good portion of the story, so it’s unlikely that this will answer a lot of the lingering questions that remain. However, I feel this will further flesh out the world that Lemire and Dean Ormston originally created. I look forward to this and any other spin-off series.

Visually, this book is flat out gorgeous. Dave Stewart’s color design is the star. Every panel has a textured look with a very inspired palette. I can’t recall another recent book that used color as effectively as this one. Digital effects are used subtly to make lights glow and to enhance the art. The color, combined with David Rubín’s expressive and gritty art, not to mention breathtaking framing, makes this book a visual treat. Speaking of framing, the issue contains a multi-page spread with our characters walking through an asylum that is extremely unique and creative. It comes across as the comic book equivalent of a single-take crane shot in a film.

I give this issue 4.5 out of 5 stars. It’s a great start to the series, but I’m knocking down the score slightly because it retreads some of what fans already know from the main Black Hammer series. This is likely done to be friendly to new readers, which I can appreciate, but existing fans of the series may have wished for a different approach. However, you can’t go wrong with more Black Hammer. This is a masterfully executed book with excellent writing, deep characters, and incredible art.

Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by David Rubín
Colors by Dave Stewart
Published by Dark Horse

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