The “Black Hammer” universe continues expanding with this newest issue of “Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil.” Read on to see whether it adds to the story or ends up skippable, and look out for spoilers!
Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by David Rubín
From the World of Black Hammer! Lou Kamiski was just a regular ol’ Spiral City plumber when one day he was plunged into the horrific world of the great Old Ones to become CTHU-LOU! Witness the origin story of how a mild-mannered handyman turned into an emissary for a cosmic god and one of Black Hammer’s most feared opponents.
When I first heard “Black Hammer” was getting a spin-off miniseries, I was hesitant. The reason I like “Black Hammer” is because of its mundane drama with broken characters in an impossible situation. They are stuck in this strange land, just trying to pick up the pieces of their lives and make the best of whatever happened in the past. So at first, the concept of “Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil” didn’t appeal to me. Why would I want to read about the boring time of when these characters were superheroes if the most interesting stuff happened way after that ended? Well, I should have trusted Lemire to take the story to interesting places, and it appears that having Rubin on the visuals means that it would have succeeded either way.
Lemire realized the most interesting elements about Black Hammer and made sure to apply them here. “Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil” isn’t, contrary to what I thought, about the lives of the superheroes before they vanished. It’s about Lucy, Black Hammer’s daughter, and what happened to her and the villains after the heroes disappeared. Focusing on Lucy allows Lemire to retain that personal touch, the intimate stakes that have made “Black Hammer” so great. Further, this series sees Lucy investigating what happened to the heroes prior to her trip to their realm in the main series, meaning we have a nor-like sense of predestination, which gives us an even more intimate curiosity to figure out how she gets to her ultimate destination. We also get to piece together the pieces alongside her, allowing us to indulge in some detective genre entertainment, and let’s be real, who doesn’t like a well done detective story?
“Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil,” then, isn’t so much about expanding the universe through backstory but instead expanding it through story. In a lot of cases, these sort of universe-expanding tales tend to be skippable extra details that end up not pertaining to whatever the main story may be. Lucy’s story is strong enough to both stand on its own and fill in details for the main “Black Hammer” title’s story in a way that makes you want to read it, instead of acting like you have to read it regardless of quality.
In this particular issue, we meet the grotesque Cthu-Lou and his family. As far as its place in the main narrative, the meeting plays out as Lucy’s next lead and gives her some valuable information on where to go next. But in terms of just providing some memorable scenes, that’s where it really shines. Lou’s origin is depicted in a short, fascinating scene where the lettering around him gradually overwhelms him and leads him down a large, glowing green sewer where a terrifying floating cthulu monster resides. The monster appears all powerful in its first appearance at the center of a double-page spread, on the next page creeping up from the edges of panels of Lou running away and eventually overtaking entire panels as he consumes Lou. Things turn to occult body horror from there, with Rubin painstakingly depicting the creacks and schoorps of tentacles exploding from poor Lou the Plumber’s head. Once that gruesome scene finishes, Lemire and Rubin spend most of the rest of the issue making use of Lemire’s tendency to depict the mundane, placing the now-reformed Cthu-Lou in a kitchen and letting Lucy have a nice moment with Lou’s daughter, a young half-Cthulu. The team also makes a point to depict Lou’s irate, red-faced wife as the true monster of the scene, despite being the only human of the family.Continued below
Rubin’s handling of all visuals in the issue — illustrations, colors, and letters — means the issue retains a distinct, singular style. He’s able to effortlessly play with contrasts to enhance the story, like the dozens of tangled green tentacles coming out of Cthu-Lou face against the put-together human look of his wife, which then turns to an extreme, cartoonishly expressive red rage. Rubin’s colorscapes are almost indefinable: absolutely nothing is one solid shade of a color, and it’s common for all things, especially those that would otherwise be dark or unremarkable, to be draped in texture and tinged with glowing shades of primary color mixtures. Even the most mundane and crudely drawn areas turn out looking otherworldly with this coloring style. With Rubin handling the lettering as well, the hand-drawn speech bubbles and sound effects truly appear to be designed in tandem with the art, making the visual environment that much more engaging.
In the end, “Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil” continues on being a separate-but-related story for fans of “Black Hammer” who want to know more about its universe, as well as those who wish for more quality stories by the same writer and fill-in artist. It’s not exactly a required read, and this issue but the overall experience is of such quality that you’ll probably want to read it either way.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – A well done issue, as much for its ties to “Black Hammer” as for its engaging detective story and stunning otherworldly visuals.