Comic Book Review – Black Hammer Reborn

Black Hammer Reborn (Dark Horse Comics)
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Caitlin Yarsky, Malachi Ward, and Matthew Sheehan

I was pretty skeptical when I saw Jeff Lemire was putting out a maxi-series titled Black Hammer Reborn. After Black Hammer: The Age of Doom, the main story in this superhero universe seemed all wrapped up, in my opinion. There were secondary mini-series that did world-building, exploring pastiches of familiar comic tropes, which seemed fine. However, I didn’t see any value in going back to a narrative that was concluded in a thematically & emotionally satisfying way. Even after reading Black Hammer Reborn, I haven’t changed my mind too much in that regard. 

The series opens more than ten years after the events of Age of Doom. Lucy Weber is now in her late 30s/40s with a husband and two children. Throughout the maxi-series, the narrative pivots between 2016 and 1996 as it is revealed that Lucy experienced an event that caused her to put away the cosmic hammer. Some fascinating elements introduced to readers promise to provide a new perspective on the protagonist, but ultimately I felt this story needed more resolution. After twelve issues, readers expect some sort of wrap-up but what we get here is a tease for yet another Black Hammer series “coming soon.”

Spending more time with Lucy isn’t a bad thing. I always felt she was overshadowed despite being the title character by the end of the original story arc. Credit where credit is due, Lemire refuses to rehash the story that brought us into this world. As legacy sequels become a standard in entertainment (you know we are like a decade away from a Stranger Things legacy series on Netflix, right? Like that is going to happen.), Lemire chooses to push forward with Lucy. We witness everything she loves falling apart and hint that the original moment of crisis that started all of this was never halted in the first place; the threat of Anti-God has been looming over this universe since the other heroes believed they had stopped it.

Things start out promising, but by the final issue, I expect even the most die-hard Lemire/Black Hammer fans to be a little incredulous. Lucy is in a tense position where she has to choose between saving her family or the rest of the universe. We’re thrown a twist in the central antagonist, and the Multiverse is crammed into the story. Despite the over-saturation of Multiverses in the media, I accepted it here because Lemire is clearly drawing on Silver Age comics and parallel realities are a core trope of that period. We get a multiverse worth of Colonel Weirds and then a note on the last page to stay tuned for Black Hammer: The End. Do I believe it will be “the end”? When it actually is, I will believe it.

New artist Caitlin Yarsky is a promising new talent. She’s asked to create variations on very trope-y heroes and produces visually engaging designs that tell stories through how they are altered from the original Colonel Weird. She also shows mastery with expressive faces, presenting emotions on a spectrum of expression. Her art helped keep me invested in a story that seemed to rush to get nowhere.

Lucy’s family is the most exciting part of the story, and I don’t think we got to spend nearly enough time with them. The series arc is broken into thirds, and by the end of the first third, so many other characters are jockeying to panel space that the family is pushed out to the edge of the story. They are still important, but I got the sense Lemire was holding out for an arc in The End where their stories get resolved. 

My biggest takeaway from this book was how unnecessary it seems. This time next year, I will have read The End and may have a far different appreciation for Reborn. As it stands, I don’t see this as essential reading for Black Hammer fans. The previous two series wrapped everything up in a nice bow, and this just reeks of pulling out all the old toys just to see if there is still interest. I certainly wouldn’t write off Jeff Lemire, but he isn’t invincible to putting out a dud here and there (see Extraordinary X-Men, for one). Unless there is some interesting new angle to approach the Black Hammer Universe with, I’m not quite seeing a reason to keep it going other than just selling more monthly books.

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