cover image Black Hammer: Secret Origins

Black Hammer: Secret Origins

Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston. Dark Horse, $14.99 trade paper (152p) ISBN 978-1-61655-786-7

Lemire’s best stories (the Essex County trilogy) are permeated with loss–his characters are always pining for something that once was and can never be again. While reveling in the pulp fantasies of silver age superhero comics and EC’s lurid sci-fi/horror stories, this collection is as much a study of loneliness and isolation as it is a superhero deconstruction. It opens with six former superheroes who’ve been mysteriously trapped on a small farm for a decade. Each chapter, beautifully illustrated by Ormston (Lucifer) with eerie, stripped-down realism, explores each hero’s identity, origins, and path to ending up on the farm. As the narrative unfolds, the haunting backstories add greater context and intrigue to the mysteries of the present. There’s an astonishing clarity to the characters and their motivations amid what could easily become a convoluted backstory filled with interstellar exploration, multiverse travelling, alien diplomacy, and quiet farm life. If Black Hammer lives up to its early promise, it will deserve a place on the shelf right next to the Watchmen series. (Apr.)