Black Hammer Volume 3: Age of Doom Part 1
Reprints Black Hammer: Age of Doom #1-6
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Dean Ormston
Black Hammer has always been a series that felt like it had an end date. You could only keep the premise going for so long before the readers needed some resolution. Thankfully, Jeff Lemire understood that and brought us a 12 issue mini-series that provides a definitive ending to the story of these characters. The World of Black Hammer is still a wide-open place to explore. But for now, we focus on the story of Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Barbalien, Colonel Weird, Talkie Walkie, Madame Dragonfly, and Lucy Weber.
Lucy has shown up with her father’s signature black hammer and has his powers. She’s shunted away right before explaining to her friends how they ended up in this pocket dimension. Lucy ends up in the Anteroom, a metafictional play on the darker characters and themes of DC’s Vertigo imprint and Dark Horse comics. There are Doom Patrol and a Hellboy analog, with the bartender being a play on John Constantine. While Lucy ends up descending into some bleak places, the rest of the group is trying to follow up on the little they learned from her. Aspects of Rockwood start to be revealed as false constructs.
Black Hammer works so well because it has found a way to play to both longtime fans of the superhero comics genre and newcomers who want an original story. Lemire leans into the tropes of Silver Age comics in a respectively and playful manner, exploring what it means to exist in a fictional universe. He uses our love of archetypes to comment on how the past has done great harm to people despite what the masses may think. Barbalien’s story of prejudice is particularly revealing about how Silver Age comics made marginalized people totally invisible.
I could see legitimate complaints that a lot of these issues were delaying the full reveal, sending Lucy off on her side plot. I think Lucy’s arc needed this journey to complete itself. She needed to confront her father and get a full understanding of what happened during that final battle. It was also crucial that Abraham and his friends did their own investigation and were able to confront the culprit behind their imprisonment. Because each storyline resolved, it leaves a lot of questions about what comes next, though.
I want to note that Lemire creates such fully realized characters that they put many of the big two’s (DC & Marvel) writers to shame. It’s easy when you’re writing Batman or Spider-Man to lean into audience expectations. It’s much harder when you present your readers with new heroes to follow, especially ones that are at the end of their careers. Lemire uses archetypes as a foundation but then challenges the readers’ notions. Golden Gail is a pastiche of Captain Marvel/Shazam, and at every turn, he refuses to give us what we expect. She’s an adult woman who becomes a child, she has carried on an affair with a supervillain, Gail isn’t an exemplar of virtue, she sees her powers and role as having stolen her life from her.
It should be evident that you can’t really pick this one up without reading the previous two volumes. I find the whole series to be a pretty quick read, but still dense with story and character. There are promises of massive changes at the end of this first part, and I’m excited to see how Lemire manages to wrap the whole narrative up.