Comic Review: Black Hammer ’45: From the World of Black Hammer #1 (Dark Horse)

Jeff Lemire is at it again; this time, his Black Hammer Saga takes a few time steps backward. But is it enough to make us interested in following Black Hammer […]

Jeff Lemire is at it again; this time, his Black Hammer Saga takes a few time steps backward. But is it enough to make us interested in following Black Hammer ’45 from this day forward?

I’m a big fan of Lemire, and particularly the Black Hammer ‘family’ of comics. There are spin-offs, offshoots, parallel universes, parallel lines that diverge and make my eyes cross.
It’s all been good so far.

Black Hammer ’45 has the usual Lemire delivery list; he delivers a hook, a framework on which to hang some unforgettable characters. It has links to the other Black Hammer products, so that’s all good. However, there are a few hitches in this new title from Dark Horse Comics.

I had a hard time reading this issue. The cover, fashioned to look like a well-read hardcover book, gave us the basics; it’s a downed plane, full of bullet holes, surrounded by some pilots with guns. Must be about war. Shades of Enemy Ace, and Sgt Rock! Cool!

The problem for me is two-fold. The story and writing by Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes is of the usual top caliber. Crisp dialogue, spoken like it’s true. But Matt Kindt’s artwork is not detailed or fine lined enough to help me along. The layouts are good, the storyboarding is fine too. But Kindt’s brushwork style often distracted me. It’s a very eccentric, indie style for this type of subject matter. Made me read a panel a few times, wondering who is who. The characters looked similar, or perhaps not individual enough. The watercolour style colouring didn’t aid me either; sometimes I had to look closely at the character expressions. Is he laughing or frowning?? Is this guy 92 years old or 45?

I don’t usually mention the lettering in a comic. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, it is sadly an under-appreciated aspect of comic books. However, unfortunately, this book is hard to read. The font is a quirky, hand lettered-looking style. It’s small, it’s difficult to read, and it’s a mix of upper and lower case characters. Talk about slow you down. It’s unfortunate, as Marie Enger has a lot of dialogue balloons and captions to handle in this issue.

So, after all, this, is it worth a shot? Actually, yes. The story of Black Hammer Squadron’s fights against the Nazi and Russian superpowers in World War Two is a great adventure. There are some unique aspects to the tale that are worth catching, but the art and lettering will slow down your progress.

Dark Horse, Black Hammer ’45 #1, $3.99 for 25 pages of content. Not rated, perhaps Teen

Alan Spinney

About Alan Spinney

After a career of graphic design, art direction and copywriting, I still have a passion for words and pictures. I love it when a comic book comes together; the story is tight, and the drawings lead me forward. Art with words... the toughest storytelling technique to get right. Was this comic book worth your money? Let's see!!