Black Hammer Volume 4: The Age of Doom Part 2 (2019)
Reprints Black Hammer: The Age of Doom #7-12
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart
What makes someone a hero? A colorful costume? A suite of superpowers? A catchy name? Jeff Lemire brings us a story about the ultimate sacrifice to give up your life and hopes to save the rest of reality. He plays with the metafiction of writing superhero comics, revealing a world where ideas never came to fruition. The continuity reboot also gets examined as we see what happens when our heroes forget who they were and have to rediscover their heroic identities.
Reality appears to have collapsed the moment the heroes returned to their universe. The prophecy said that if they came back, Anti-God would return and destroy everything. Colonel Weird finds himself in the realm of ideas that never came to be. For a variety of reasons, these heroes and villains never made it to print, stuck in the minds of their creators. Colonel Weird even briefly glimpses his own creator while on the run from Anti-God. While I wasn’t a fan of the art in this one-shot aside, the ideas were a lot of fun. I’m always a fan of Grant Morrison-style references to the creator of the universe being the actual comic book writers and artists.
The rest of the volume is the core story of Lucy Weber, slowly coming to the understanding she had another life as a superhero. A face from the past returns and begins guiding her down this path. It’s only a matter of time before she starts to seek out the rest of the group and try to help them regain their memories. Abraham Slam has settled into a sad, quiet life, and even so, he’s afraid to listen to Lucy and accept her offer to remember everything. Barbalien is back on Mars stuck under the oppressive heel of his prejudiced society, living with his partner in a cave and hoping they can break the law to build a ship and escape.
Lemire obviously wants to evoke the sense of grim and gritty reboots. The violence is heightened from the previous Silver Age tone of the comic. Spiral City is dreary, always under a cloud of rain. I wish the story had slowed down a bit and allowed more of a spotlight on each character. The ending, when the heroes realize what their return has done and how Anti-God has returned, feels satisfyingly complete. The story has a true conclusion that exemplifies the heroism of these people.
The finale lets us know the World of Black Hammer is not over, the titular hero is still out there fighting the forces of evil. Meanwhile, Rockwood becomes a happy ending for the others, each having their own particular dream fulfilled in a semi-bittersweet note. Looking back on the core Black Hammer series, it’s a rather quick read and wraps up all its loose ends cleanly. The focus on characters over big plot points served it well and always kept us grounded. There’s still more of the World of Black Hammer to read (Black Hammer ‘45, Black Hammer/Justice League, etc.). We’ll check in again next December to see what new corners of the world are revealed.