Indie Comics Review: BLACK HAMMER REBORN #5
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artists: Malachi Ward, Matthew Sheean, Rich Tomasso
Colours: Malachi Ward, Rich Tomasso
Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Black Hammer Reborn #5: A multidimensional nightmare unfolds and wrecks chaos on Spiral City as the powerful superhero known as the Black Hammer joins forces with the brutal vigilante known as the Skulldigger to put an end to this madness.
Black Hammer Reborn #3 opens with Lucy still in shock from the apparent death of her family at the hands of Colonel Weird in the last issue. I qualify their deaths as “apparent” for two reasons. First, I find it difficult to believe that Colonel Weird would kill Lucy’s family, nor that Lucy would tell him to do so (as he claims). And second, her son Joseph appears alive and well in the Inspector Insector backup story.
There is a rather fascinating development in Black Hammer Reborn #5 that likely explains a lot of this series’ open questions. The Para-Zone incursions in Spiral City have led to the manifestations of another Spiral City that hangs inverted in the sky over the city. Lucy flies up to that other Spiral only to encounter Sherlock Frankenstein and his “Liberty Squadron”. Apparently, in this Spiral City, good and evil characters are reversed. Many facets of Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer universe draw inspiration from classic comic concepts, and it’s easy to see that Lemire has introduced the Black Hammer equivalent of Earth-Three.
Lucy learns that the Doctor Andromeda she killed was his evil doppelganger from this Mirror Universe and that her Doc Robinson is still alive, but missing. I was quite relieved to learn that Andromeda hadn’t turned evil after all.
Also, this makes me wonder if Lucy’s own family members hadn’t been similarly replaced by their evil doppelgangers. It would neatly explain her husband’s adultery, her daughter’s drug use, and her son’s cruel torturing of the family cat. On the other hand, it seems a bit to pat to chalk everything up to evil doppelgangers. I suspect Lemire’s story will prove to be more complex than that.
The two-page Inspector Insector backup is titled “The Case of the Electric Boy”. Lucy’s son Joseph is the “Electric Boy” in question. As we learned last issue, Joseph appears to have inherited his father’s electricity powers. It’s rather interesting that Joseph turns up in Limbo. Is this what happens with characters that are killed off in the Black Hammer universe? Or has he been redirected from whatever afterlife awaits dead characters to Limbo by some unknown power? If so, for what reason? This raises some fascinating questions about the cosmology of Lemire’s universe. And I hope Lemire gives us some answers or at least some intriguing hints.
Malachi Ward and Matthew Sheean have done a fantastic job illustrating the main story. I particularly like their rendering of the upside-down alternate city suspended above Spiral City. And their heroic versions of Spiral’s visions have piqued my interest in these characters. Rich Tommaso’s artistic style in the backup story is an interesting counterpoint to the main story’s art. The cartoony style is actually rather fitting for the odd realm of Limbo.
I think that this story has been a little slow to build up, but it’s getting really interesting now. But I’m not sure as to how Lemire could have picked up the pace without compromising the story. So perhaps that slow burn was necessary. I trust in his writing ability enough not to second-guess his story decisions. And 5 issues isn’t really that long for a series to work its way to the meat of a story, after all.
The talent for world-building that Jeff Lemire has shown in his Black Hammer titles never ceases to astound me. His universe already seems as wide and varied as DC’s or Marvel’s, but he continually adds new settings, characters, and stories that add deeper levels. Black Hammer Reborn #5, Lemire continues widening the boundaries of the World of Black Hammer.