Indie Comics Review: BLACK HAMMER: VISIONS #7
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Cecil Castellucci
Artist: Melissa Duffy
Colours: Bill Crabtree
Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Black Hammer: Visions #7: Exiled in a world of forgotten heroes and villains known as Limbo Land, Ms. Moonbeam hopes one day to be released and put back into a main story of her own–all of that gets thrown into a major existential crisis with the arrival of Colonel Weird into her world, leading her on a quest to find her way out of Limbo Land.
One of the things I love about this miniseries is how it allows for us to get a closer look at corners of the Jeff Lemire’s universe that he has only briefly touched upon in the main series. In this case, it’s the realm of Limbo, which Colonel Weird briefly visited in Black Hammer: Age of Doom #6 and #7.
This Limbo very similar to the Limbo Grant Morrison created for DC in his legendary Animal Man run. However, Morrison’s Limbo was where characters existed between their appearances in comics. Lemire’s version appears to be for characters that were never used or appeared briefly before being forgotten.
This has some interesting existential implications for Lemire’s universe, which Cecil Castellucci explores a bit further in Black Hammer: Visions #7. The existence of Limbo implies that the characters know they are in a comic – or at least they do while they’re relegated to Limbo. But this story makes it clear that main characters know they are playing a role in a comic book story. This is shown when Golden Gail explicitly consults with the story’s writer when the villain, Ms. Moonbeam, doesn’t stick to the script.
Golden Gail is my favourite Black Hammer character, and I’m always pleased to see her make an appearance. And I liked seeing that she wasn’t above making her own edits to the script while the story’s writer was distracted. Gail’s attitude makes her one of the most fun characters to read.
The idea of a comic book character rebelling against the writer and attempting to write their own story is quite interesting. It seems to be an ultimately futile pursuit, but Ms. Moonbeam shows that it might also lead to a more interesting story. Writers sometimes talk about characters “writing themselves”. This is meant refers the constraints placed on the writer by keeping the characters “in character”. However, it has a similar effect as if the character literally did act autonomously.
And Ms. Moonbeam’s rebellion ultimately leads her to her redemption by means of heroic sacrifice. Although her intentions are evil, when faced with a greater evil, she chooses to save the world. As she states, “You’d never know it to look at me now, but I was created to be evil. But I admit that in this moment, it is glorious to be good”. Her rebellion actual succeeds in making her the heroine of the story.
I will admit that I would have been more skeptical of the premise of Castellucci’s story if Lemire had not already established Limbo in Black Hammer: Age of Doom. But given that Lemire established this meta-level of his comic book universe, I can’t say that he is violating the boundaries Lemire has established. Most Black Hammer stories are taken on a literal level. But there is room in Lemire’s universe to have stories that operate on a meta-level, where the characters are actors that know they exist within a comic book.
Black Hammer: Visions #7 is an offbeat exploration involving one of the stranger corner’s of Jeff Lemire’s universe. But it’s no less less exciting than any of the other stories in this miniseries. This story has me hoping that Lemire will do more with the Limbo concept in the future.