Indie Comics Review: BLACK HAMMER: VISIONS #4
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Diego Olortegui
Colours: Dave Stewart
Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Black Hammer: Visions #4: Eisner Award-winning writer Mariko Tamaki and her superstar Marvel collaborator Diego Olortegui team up once again for a truly unusual Black Hammer issue that moves our heroes away from the farm to bizarre setting that’s a cross of gothic soap opera and space opera.
In Black Hammer: Visions #4, Mariko Tamaki delivers a tale set in Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer universe. Tamaki’s tale is somewhat different from the other tales in this series so far. Where the other writers have chosen to focus on specific characters in that universe, Tamaki has chosen to write a story featuring the entire main cast of characters from the Black Hammer series.
Also, the other issues have featured rather straightforward untold tales of Lemire’s universe, but Tamaki’s story is rather hard to define. It’s a rather bizarre tale where what’s real and what isn’t shifts multiple times. The story starts as a gothic soap opera with the Black Hammer heroes in roles that differ markedly from their normal selves.
Then we find that that reality is a soap opera being watched by members of a family living on a space station in a science fiction setting. Then reality shifts as we see the heroes as the actors behind the scenes on that soap opera.
It’s interesting to see how the heroes seem to switch around roles between the levels of reality. In the soap opera, Golden Gail is shown as a child playing an old woman, but in the science fiction setting, she’s the child she appears to be. For Abraham Slam, the reverse is true. He’s Gail’s husband in the former setting, but is an aging man playing a teenager in the latter. And Barbalien goes from being a servant in one setting to the family patriarch in the other.
However, there are some clues as to what’s going on as the story progresses. And it’s not surprising that Colonel Weird seems to be at the centre of this bizarre story. The soap opera scenario unravels when it’s revealed that the Gail is having an affair with the butler (personified as Weird). In the science fiction scenario, Weird is the only character who appears as more or less his normal self. And the entire set of scenarios ends when Weird puts on his uniform and heads through a portal into deep space.
I really loved the art of Diego Olortegui. He clearly shows that he is capable of handling multiple genres with ease. And I love his depictions of the characters. And I would love to see him return to draw another Black Hammer project in the future.
It’s rather confusing where this story fits into the Black Hammer series, or if it can be canon at all. Perhaps it’s just a series of delusions that Colonel Weird has in the Para-zone. Given that this is a one-off story, it seems unlikely that what’s going on will ever be fully explained. Despite this, it is an entertaining story and it’s fun to speculate how it fits into the overall Black Hammer story.
Also, while this is a fun story, it would be a rather confusing entry point to Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer universe. If you aren’t familiar with the main Black Hammer series, you probably wouldn’t have a clue what to make of it. If you are brand new to Black Hammer, I urge you to put this story aside until you are more familiar with Lemire’s world.
I particularly enjoy reading offbeat stories like the one in Black Hammer: Visions #4. It’s a delightful addition to the other installments of this series. This miniseries has yet to produce a story that isn’t a great addition to the Black Hammer mythos.