Indie Comics Review: BLACK HAMMER: VISIONS #8
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: David Rubin
Colours: David Rubin
Letters: David Rubin
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Black Hammer: Visions #8: In this dueling narrative of two different sins over time, we witness an 1880s origin story of the Black Hammer cult cowboy known as the Horseless Rider and a 1950s southwestern rest home where the staff is immoral and vengeance is waiting in the shadows.
This series has featured some big name comic writers, and Black Hammer: Visions #8 is no exception. Scott Snyder wrote the Dark Nights Metal and Dark Nights Death Metal events – cosmic level epics that spanned the entirety of the DC Multiverse. So a self-contained western/horror story is a change of pace for him.
Snyder’s story features the Horseless Rider. This is a mysterious character that’s popped up in the background of other stories in the Black Hammer universe that I’ve found intriguing. From those appearances, I gathered that the Horseless Rider was sort of a western-themed Spectre. And while there does seem to be elements of the Spectre in the Rider, I detect some similarity to El Diablo as well. By this, I mean the original El Diablo, who was a Zorro-esque character with supernatural overtones.
I don’t know if Snyder was fleshing out an origin set out by Lemire, or if he was allowed to come up with one entirely on his own, but I found it quite fascinating. I had wondered what the significance of the Rider being “Horseless” was, but connecting him to the funeral custom of a horseless rider. If you’re not familiar, a funeral procession would sometimes include a horse with no rider, but rather just a pair of boots in the stirrups.
The Rider was a common thief who robbed a small funeral procession, finding the deceased in a gold coffin. The coffin, along with a body, contained two golden guns and a large number of gold bullets. Donning the guns, he finds himself turned into the Horseless Rider, who avenges crimes against the dead.
This is woven with a story set many years later in 1955 where an orderly in a seniors’ rest home has been stealing from recently deceased residents. When one resident named Buck catches him in the act, the orderly attempts to kill him, only to be stopped by the Horseless Rider.
I found it an interesting change that in this story, the Rider is punishing the crime of stealing from the dead. Usually in these type of stories, vengeance is taken against the dead’s killers. Looting the recently dead’s belongings might happen, but is usually a secondary concern. I find the idea that there may be a whole range of offences against the dead a fascinating idea. It would be fantastic to see the Rider return to explore this idea further.
I also enjoyed Dave Rubin’s art in this issue. His style here somewhat reminiscent of EC Horror titles, which is quite fitting for this kind of story. And his choice of colours perfectly sets the mood. It’s a dark and creepy story, and the dark and subdued palette reflects that. And the bright shades of orange provide an eerie, otherworldly contrast to the darker colours. I’m not really familiar with his other work, but he’s clearly a master at drawing horror.
A series with rotating creators tends to be inconsistent in term of quality. While some issues of Black Hammer: Visions stand above the others, this entire series has been outstanding. Black Hammer: Visions #8 is one of the better issues of the series, but if I had to rank the issues, I would place it second after Patton Oswalt’s Golden Gail story from issue #1.
Black Hammer: Visions was something of an experiment, which has proven to be a rousing success. Each writer has provided a fantastic story worthy of addition to the Black Hammer canon. This shows the superb job of world-building that Lemire has accomplished, providing a wealth of possibilities that is the ideal playground for a talented writer.