Review: BLACK HAMMER/JUSTICE LEAGUE: HAMMER OF JUSTICE #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Michael Walsh
Lettters: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Black Hammer/Justice League: Hammer of Justice #1: A strange man arrives simultaneously on Black Hammer Farm and in Metropolis, and both worlds are warped as Starro attacks! Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman, and more crossover with Golden Gail, Colonel Weird, and the rest of the Black Hammer gang!
Hammer of Justice #1 employs a rather unique way to begin a crossover. Instead of the two teams meeting, a mysterious stranger causes the two teams to switch places. Thus we see the League trapped on the Black Hammer Farm, while the Black Hammer gang find themselves in Metropolis, facing Starro.
I like that Lemire avoids switching characters with their closest DCU analogue. One might expect Martian Manhunter in the place of Barbalien or Captain Marvel switched with Golden Gail.
It’s fascinating to see which Leaguers settle easily into their new roles. Batman is just as obsessed with escaping the farm as Talky Walky was, and Superman feels completely at home on the farm, the same as Abraham Slam did.
And then there’s the matter of the members of either team that are missing after the switch. Where did Cyborg, the Flash, and Talky Walky get off to? I’m sure we’ll find out soon, but we did find what Colonel Weird is up to.
I had been wondering why no Green Lanterns were with the Justice League in their fight against Starro. But worry not, there is not only one or two Green Lanterns, but a sizable group of Corps members, led by John Stewart. The GLs discover Colonel Weird somewhere in outer space.
I love the number of nods that Lemire makes to DC history. In one panel, we see Superman fighting the 80s version of Brainiac (as seen in the Super Powers line of action figures). Also, when Colonel Weird is contemplating the new universe he find himself in, he says, “It’s all a great big mystery, isn’t it?… A Mystery In Space! A fitting utterance coming from a pastiche of Adam Strange.
And who is this mysterious stranger that confronts both teams? He doesn’t look like any known character from either universe, so either it’s a new character or someone we’ve seen before in disguise.
I have a theory on this stranger’s identity. Considering that the Black Hammer farm is not real, but a virtual world in the Black Hammer universe, it would take either magic or reality warping powers to effect the switch. I think he’s Mister Mxyzptlk, who wields advanced 5th Dimensional science that is indistinguishable from magic.
Also, the imp has been known to have other identities in other comic book universes. Early on in John Byrne’s Superman reboot, he dropped hints that Mxyzptlk sometimes visits the Marvel Universe as the Purple Man or the Beyonder.
Plus, switching the teams seems like the kind of malicious mischief that the imp delights in. On the other hand, considering that many of the Black Hammer characters are inspired by DC characters, the stranger might be the Black Hammer analogue of Mxyzptlk. And if that’s the case, how’s Mxyzptlk going to react to someone else playing with his favourite toy, Superman?
I also loved seeing Golden Gail’s reaction to finding herself on an Earth similar to her own. She shouts her magic word, “Zafram”, hoping to finally change back to her real adult form. But when she finds that she must remain trapped in a ten-year-old body, Barbalien consoles her as she cries out her frustration and disappointment.
Speaking of Gail, while still on the farm, Barbalien makes an ‘interesting’ statement to Gail: “Please don’t tell me you tried to pick up another middle-aged farmer? Or maybe do tell me.”
Now the idea of an adult woman in a ten-year-old body seducing adult men may provide fascinating fodder for debates about ethics and legality, but it’s also a subject, I’m not sure I want to think about. And I don’t know that I appreciate Lemire making me think about it. And Barbalien’s prurient interest in the matter seems extremely creepy. Luckily, the subject is soon dropped and not brought up again.
Also, it shows that this crossover has been in the works for quite a while. The League still has the New 52 or Rebirth lineup that includes Cyborg, who has since departed to join Justice League Odyssey. And the Black Hammer gang have since escaped the virtual world they were trapped in and have returned to their Earth.
This isn’t a problem for readers who are familiar with the history of both groups, but might be confusing to newer readers that have just jumped on to either title recently. But, even if they are a bit confused, the story is easy
Although this book is put out by Dark Horse with the creative team from the regular Black Hammer title, Jeff Lemire is no stranger the Justice League, having written Justice League United and many other DC titles, so there should be no worries that the Justice League will get short shrift. I sincerely hope that this miniseries brings Jeff Lemire’s stellar World of Black Hammer all the attention it deserves. I’d give it a full 5 out of 5, but I’m taking off half a point for making me think about Golden Gail’s sex life.