Just when the answers are within our reach, they’re snatched away to a strange and frightening place. This follow up to the original “Black Hammer” series picks up right where we left off but those looking for mysteries to be solved are only presented with more questions. Read on for our review of “Black Hammer: Age of Doom” #1, which contains some spoilers.
Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by Dean Ormston
Colored by Dave Stewart
Lettered by Todd Klein
Picking up immediately where we left off–Lucy Weber has become the new Black Hammer and right as she’s about to reveal to our heroes how they got stuck on the farm and can escape she vanishes. Now our new Black Hammer finds herself trapped in a gritty world filled with punk rock detectives, emo gods, anthropomorphic humans, absurdist heroes, and many more weirdoes, in a mad world in which there is no escape!
After a short break (short but agonising thanks to the cliffhanger), we’re back with the reluctant residents of Rockwood now that Lucy Weber has picked up her father’s weapon and become the new Black Hammer. We’ve explored the wider “Black Hammer” universe for the last few months, thanks to the multiple mini-series we’ve been treated to. “Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil” gave us a story that filled in the blanks of Lucy Weber’s investigations, but more than that, it gave us a likeable, compelling protagonist in Lucy that prepares us for this new arc.
Mere moments after declaring she knows what’s happening, she is zipped away with an electric “shrack!” leaving us and our not-so-merry band of heroes confused and angry in her wake. This tantalising glimpse of hope is too much for Gail, who shatters every window in the house with her screams, and sends the others scrambling for answers as to how and why their salvation has been stolen from them.
Writer Jeff Lemire is satisfied to keep us waiting a bit longer for the answers we seek, and instead of solving one mystery about a strange, hauntingly claustrophobic prison, he introduces another one. Black Hammer is transported to the “dodgiest pub in all of existence,” where she cannot escape no matter how hard she tries. The strange anteroom is also filled with all manner of weird and terrifying characters too, making her plight decidedly more unpleasant than that of the heroes she’s been trying to save.
Lemire has wisely taken time away from the main story in “Black Hammer” to dedicate page space to Lucy Weber, and that, along with the anticipation following the cliffhanger ending of “Black Hammer,” has paid off in this issue. Lucy is all the more developed thanks to “Sherlock Frankenstein,” and that character depth allows for her to more effectively carry the weight of the narrative’s progression in this issue. The rest of the characters that we’ve come to know throughout the previous series have little to do but react and plan their next moves, it’s Lucy that’s thrust into the action, and Lucy that moves the mystery forward.
It’s fantastic to see Dean Ormston return to the world of “Black Hammer.” While it’s been amazing seeing David Rubin’s work on “Sherlock Frankenstein” and Max Fiumara on “Doctor Star,” Ormston’s darker characterizations, along with moody inks and colors from Dave Stewart really suit the bleaker situation that the heroes of Rockwood find themselves in.
Much like the narrative itself, the artwork really comes into its own when we follow Black Hammer as she explores her strange new prison. Stewart’s colors drop to a darker, more ominous palette, with heavy shading to add a creepy, almost abandoned vibe to her surroundings. Then there’s a double page spread with the single greatest introduction of new characters that “Black Hammer” has seen. A murderer’s row (perhaps literally) of monsters and demons that seem to prod at your psyche from every possible angle to ensure that there’s something there that will terrify you.
Dean Ormston’s style is perfectly suited for this kind of creativity. His art always leans more towards the horror than the superheroic, which is what makes him a great fit for “Black Hammer.” In this sort of Hell’s Waiting Room that Lucy finds herself, she’s surrounded by weird and wonderful monsters that seem to run the length and breadth of horrific creatures from comics history. Much like the heroes of “Black Hammer” pull their inspiration from all across the history of the superhero genre, the monsters in the Anteroom draw from everywhere, from classic EC Comics to Hellboy and everything in between.Continued below
“Black Hammer: Age of Doom” #1 may ask more questions that it answers, but it does it in a way that is very familiar to readers of the wider “Black Hammer” universe. Over the various series, Lemire has dedicated real time to expanding and developing the characters and the world in a way that means we’re no longer just interested in the answer to the overarching mystery, we’re also invested in what happens to Lucy and the other heroes. When Black Hammer is trapped in this new horrific prison, the question of where exactly she is and how she escapes are of course on your mind, but we’ve spent real time with Lucy at this point, and the genuine peril that she’s in feels like a weight that adds depth to this new series.
Final Verdict: 8.6 – A bold new direction for the “Black Hammer” universe, which raises more questions than it answers.