Dark Horse Comics / DC Comics
(w) Jeff Lemire (a) Michael Walsh (L) Nate Piekos (c) Dave Stewart, Michael Walsh
Editor’s Note: This is a spoiler-free(ish) review.
Like Mike Mignola before him, Jeff Lemire’s name has become synonymous with indie and creator-owned comic properties. Having created a multitude of his own universes through the years, Lemire teamed with artist Dean Ormston in 2016 and created Black Hammer. In this series, the duo created their own superhero world that hearkened back to the days of the medium’s Golden and Silver Age. Creating a living, thriving universe is a huge undertaking in its own right,, but creating a superhero-centric one could be considered impossible in a market flooded DC and Marvel titles. The thing is, Lemire is a master when it comes to world and character building – especially when it pertains to his own creations. This has helped in skyrocketing Black Hammer (and its spin-offs) into the hands of thousands of new fans.
Having written a few of the Justice League members during his tenure at DC, Jeff Lemire brings the team’s five most prominent members (Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman) into what may be the crossover of the year! Yes, I know, I thought that months back with another cross company crossover, but this time I mean it! If the next four issues live up to the first, this will be the best crossover of 2019. Having never read Black Hammer before BH/JL #1, I went in with the fear of not knowing what was happening due to having no prior knowledge of the characters or universe. Thankfully, Lemire sets up this mini-series with no need of prior knowledge, making this crossover easy to jump right into as a newcomer.
The premise is a simple one: a stranger approaches the Black Hammer gang, and later approaches the Justice League – whom are mid fight with the classic villain Starro. With a few choice words, the stranger warps each group to the others’ universe. In doing so, there is no inkling if this new player is good, or bad. Lemire introduces each Black Hammer character in the first four pages, displaying their individual personalities and how they all interact with each other. Following this, we swing over to the DC Universe we get an introduction to this incarnation of the Justice League with dialogue from each member cementing that Lemire has the feel of how each member should act, and react.
What may be the greatest moment of the teams introductions is how the panels parallel each other, with a beautiful double page spread provided by Michael Walsh showing each team in action. Throughout the issue, Lemire writes multiple panels for each universe that mirrors the others. Walsh amazingly brings these sequences to life by having the visuals matching nearly perfectly. The writing is Lemire at his best with great characters, world building, and mystery shining greatly throughout the issue, with an out of this world cliffhanger. Building on top of the great writing, Walsh’s art feels akin to Lemire’s art helping the story come to life exactly as the writer envisions. With creator owned projects the creator (usually the writer) works with an artist they trust and in BH/JL #1’s case this worked out magnificently. Each character retains their original costume aside from Starro who sports a new horror esque design, which works great in this comic.
The colors by Dave Stewart and Walsh employ a color palette giving an aura that it was printed off in the beginning era of comics, fitting for the the vintage aesthetic of Black Hammer. The duo work their coloring magic making the action pop and the scenes of emotion ring through with the colors and shades amplifying how the panel feels. Lettering in a comic may seem like it’s not a big deal, but if you compare a poorly lettered comic and a nicely done issue you can very well tell the difference. In BH/JL #1 Nate Piekos, lettering stands out for the few unique characters or circumstances that deserve them making the word bubbles look greatly done and as if they belong.
After finally stepping my foot into this Universe I am now kicking myself for not delving in before, so as I wrote this I downloaded all of the Black Hammer issues I have and plan on finally reading it!
Memorable Quote: “Gent bent, Dragonfly. I’m in no mood for your gothy B.S., okay?!” – Gail. Well I can easily say I may already have a favorite character!
Black Hammer/Justice League: Hammer of Justice! #1 Releases July 10th 2019. Go get it!