The Unbelievable Unteens finally come together in the latest “Black Hammer” miniseries finale.
Some Spoilers Ahead
Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated, Colored, & Lettered by Tyler Crook
After failing to inspire the Unteens to reunite in the last issue, Jack Sabbath is lost, unable to feel any sort of hope in having the team come together one more time to rescue Snapdragon. As each Unteen goes off on their own, certain that they are returning to their normal life, none of them can fully sink back into things as they had been. Knowing that there is even a slight chance in helping their former teammate and friend is gnawing at them, but is that urge, that pain enough to get them in the fight one last time?
The format for this final issue is, like most things “Black Hammer” an homage, a classic story of hope and faith returning at the eleventh hour. Just when the characters, and we the readers, truly believe everything is lost, or the fantastic must be shunned to return to the status quo, I final flicker lets us know not all is lost. The first third of the issue really lets us sit with each character as they wrestle with what they want versus what they think should/will happen. Lemire does a nice job with give each of them just enough space and time to wallow before the final mission has to take over the issue. It is a lot of story, that could have been stretched into two issues, but works fine as is. If this issue had focuses solely on inner feelings and choices it may not have been enough to keep people interested, especially after issue three dealt with these same decisions in a outwardly way.
We get a few beats with Jack and Jane on their own mulling over the fact that they feel nothing can be done. Jack is floating about the realm of the dead sad and angry. He comes across fellow dead vigilante the Horseless Rider and the story plays with the expectation that the Rider will inspire Jack to return to Earth, to truly make a last ditch effort to rally the team, and save Alexis. It seems like it should be going that way, but Jack is too upset to hear any reason from the Rider, and continues to float off. At this point it looks like Jack really has given up. As this is happening, we also see that neither June or Karl are able to get any work done. And with June attempting to write a new Unteens comic, the reality of her situation is making that task especially impossible. After giving up on her first new page in a quite some time, Karl knocks on the door to discuss options and a game plan.
Lemire dives into some really nice character beats and sweet moments between June and Karl. Their history is felt without being unbearably spelled out with every line of dialogue. It’s nice to feel that romantic vibe between two old flames without the risk that they are going to make a mistake causing problems between them and ruining, say, Karl’s marriage. This scene feels so familiar, while also being fairly rare in the world of comics, or most modern storytelling. The connection between these two people, who we have only had three previous issues to get acquainted with is palpable. We know them. Sure they’re mostly archetypes, but that is a good portion of the charm and power of the “Black Hammer” universe. Every character has a classic comics analog, and they are all characters seen throughout human storytelling for as long as we can remember.
As the story moves into the territory of deciding to team up on a last ditch rescue mission, we get plenty of the typical boss fight tropes throughout. While there is plenty of great action, all designed to beautifully haunting perfection by Tyler Crook, it does feel little more than what we would see in any other superhero comic. I understand that that is mostly the point, and Lemire does throw some curve balls at us in the final pages, but we catch them all. Nothing whizzes past unexpectedly. As much as I enjoy many of the decisions made in this arc, a lot of it still ends up being predictable somehow. In ways that much of the rest of this connected universe typically continues to shock. I think I was expecting this series, and this finale to be even more out there, as it is this world’s version of something like “The New Mutants” or “Doom Patrol.” I really like these characters and as much as I would hope to see them return, this final issue does feel like we were introduced to them just to see them disband permanently. But, hey, there are always flashback stories.
Tyler Crook taking on the illustrations, coloring, and lettering is obviously a major task, which is why it seems we are getting shorter runs from this team nowadays, just so he has time to work on everything on his schedule, but that doesn’t take away any of the emotional power in his artwork. “The Unbelievable Unteens” has been a bizarre, beautiful, and grotesque foray into another corner of “Black Hammer,” and while this finale does feel fairly typical and predictable in the grand scheme of things, it was a really great read. So much happens and it still flies by. Lemire and Crook give us a gorgeous final chapter that gives us the wide range of emotions we deserve in these stories. It starts off so quiet and contemplative, ramps up to fiery emotions, mind-bending action visuals, and then closes out how it began. Sad, but with just the slightest bit of endearing hope.
Final Verdict: 7.5, A deserving, if not slightly predictable, ending to this final(?) adventure of the UNBELIEVABLE UNTEENS!