Dark Horse Review :BLACK HAMMER: VISIONS #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Patton Oswalt
Artist: Dean Kotz
Colours: Jason Wordie
Letters: Nate Piekos
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Black Hammer: Visions #1: Patton Oswalt joins artists Dean Kotz and Jason Wordie to explore the life of youthful super heroine Golden Gail on the Black Hammer Farm before the beginning of Black Hammer #1, and her struggle to maintain sanity as a middle-aged woman trapped in the unchanging body of a superpowered grade-schooler.
Golden Gail was my favourite character from Jeff Lemire’s main series, so I was pleased to discover that Black Hammer: Visions #1 would focus on her. If you’re not familiar with her, she’s sort of the reverse of Captain Marvel/Shazam. But in during the Black Hammer heroes’ exile in Rockwood, Gail was trapped in her super-powered child form. Gail is especially frustrated by this, protesting “I’m a sexually active fifty-year-old, and I turn into a ten-year-old hero whenever I say, “Zafram!”. But now It doesn’t fucking work, and I’m trapped in this shit-stain town and I just want a cigarette and a solid lay!”.
The story is told from the viewpoint of two friends, Eunice and Barbara on the day of their high school graduation. They reminisce about their another friend they had in fourth grade, Gail. Unfortunately, since Gail doesn’t age, as far as they know, Gail moved out of town. They also remember meeting her younger cousin “Windy” a few years later, not realizing she was the same girl.
While I’m familiar with Patton Oswalt as a comedian, I wasn’t sure whether his talents in that field would carry over to writing comics. But, it seems he’s just as talented in either endeavour. And while there is plenty of humour in the story, Oswalt doesn’t rely solely on comedy. There is also an element to tragedy in the story, with respect to the psychological toll of Gail’s situation.
But the humour is deliciously hilarious. Many of the jokes are centred around Gail’s clashes with school authorities who don’t know how to cope with adult sensibilities coming out of the mouth of a child. One joke I particularly loved was Gail’s science project titled “Everything Dies!”, which includes a list of things that die: “puppies, kittens, Mom, Dad, dreams, love”.
While the credits acknowledge the lyrics of Aimee Mann’s “Ghost World”, I am surprised that they didn’t extend the same courtesy to Nervous Norvus for multiple references to his song “Transfusion”. The tune warned of the consequences of reckless driving, but “Put a gallon in me, Alan” or “Slip the juice to me, Bruce” work equally well as requests for coffee. However, I have to say that “Hey daddy-o, make that Type-O” doesn’t quite sound right.
However, Eunice and Barbara’s friendship doesn’t seem likely to last long past high school. Barbara, is as shallow and average as almost everyone else in the artificially created town of Rockwood. But Eunice somehow has a unique spark of individuality that transcends this. And Gail values this in her friend, refusing to let that spark be stamped out.
Black Hammer: Visions #1 contains the first Black Hammer story not written or co-written by Lemire. Fans might worry that the level of quality might suffer due to this. However, this story should put that fear to rest. Hopefully, the other writers contributing to this series will give us stories as good as this one.
I must admit a bit of disappointment that Golden Gail only got a single issue story when other characters have gotten their own miniseries. Hopefully Gail will get her own miniseries at some point. I would especially love to see a series set in the prime of her superhero career.
I haven’t been disappointed by any Black Hammer title yet, and Black Hammer: Visions #1 is no exception. Patton Oswalt’s story starts off this anthology series on an auspicious start.