Indie Comics Review: BLACK HAMMER: VISIONS #3
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Johnnie Christmas
Colours: Dave Stewart
Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Black Hammer: Visions #3: Sex Criminal‘s Chip Zdarsky and Alien 3‘s Johnnie Christmas team up for the first time with this action-packed Hammerverse special. Before he was trapped with Spiral City’s greatest heroes on a mysterious limbo farm, aging hero Abraham Slam found himself already an outcast in his own world. And with the arrival of a belligerent reboot hero named The Slam, he finds himself having to put on the old tights again to show that there can be only one Slam in town.
Black Hammer: Visions #4 presents us with a solo tale of Abraham Slam. Chip Zdarsky’s story picks up on a theme introduced in Lemire’s main Black Hammer series. In flashbacks, we saw that Abraham Slam was a hero that wasn’t aging gracefully and was struggling to accept retirement.
During this story, Abe is moved to come out of retirement when he learns that a new hero, “The Slam” has declared himself his successor. Worse yet, Abe detests the type of hero that The Slam is. When he claims to be a fan of Abe’s, Abe responds, “If you were, you wouldn’t be some government stooge. And you wouldn’t carry a gun”.
Abe confronts his would-be replacement and gets thoroughly beaten and humiliated. On top of this, this causes a falling out between Abe and his girlfriend. And when the younger hero gets himself killed, Abe realizes that, “I should have helped him, but I needed to prove I was better than him”.
And in a brilliant move, Zdarsky brings in the exact right hero to help Abe learn to accept retirement gracefully: Golden Gail. Gail shows up in her civilian identity as the grown-up Gail Gibbons and reveals that she has retired. She could potentially carry on her superheoric career as an eternal 9-year-old. But she reached a point where, satisfied with her accomplishments, she decided to stop and enjoy the rest of her life.
The ironic thing is that although the story ends with Abe and Gail having reached a point where they satisfied to have retired from their superhero lives, we know that didn’t last. Soon afterwards, they would be pulled out of retirement by the attack of Anti-God.
I quite like the artwork of Johnnie Christmas in this story. First off, Abe is recognizably the same character we have seen in the main Black Hammer series. And he does cut a rather striking figure in costume, despite his age. I also loved the panel where The Slam walks out of the alley, leaving Abe in a heap atop a garbage pile – a neat reference to the iconic panel in Amazing Spider-Man #50 where Peter Parker turns his back on his heroic identity.
Also, I love they portray Gail, both visually and in her behaviour. In Lemire’s regular series, he portrays her as a grown woman trapped in a child’s body. Zdarsky turns this on its head by showing us Gail as a middle-aged woman, but with glimpses of childlike impudence peeking out. Christmas bolsters this giving Gail’s features some childlike qualities and expressions. Even though Gail barely appears in the story, Zdarsky and Christmas add an intriguing level to her character that I had never considered before.
I originally had some reservations about the idea of other authors taking on Lemire’s characters. However, each issue of this series so far has proven those fears to be unfounded. So far each writer has found something to add, while still being respectful of the Lemire’s creations.