There is something extremely depressing about the passage of time, especially for those of us that feel we have had more days behind us than ahead. We make choices that are seemingly for the better at the time and find in the end they have greater negative consequences than we had anticipated. What we find out in Black Hammer #7 is that consequences sometimes trap us and even heroes bear the onus of their decisions.
We find the group of former heroes locked in a rural farming town, unable to go past a certain point, and ultimately we read that moving further than a boundary will cost them their lives. In this issue, we find that Black Hammer paid the ultimate price to relay this information to the other remaining heroes. That tragedy is felt all the more, when years later, his daughter stumbles into the farming town to find her father. Only now she is trapped in the same world as they are, with no way to escape their confines.
Writer Jeff Lemire references the sacrifices that a father makes for his children, and the things given up to make it happen. Many older comic book readers will approach this title and appreciate the deeper story of how time has taken away from the heroes, and is seen as an enemy to their better interests. We discover that there are sacrifices of time, effort, and energy that a father takes to raise his children. Contrasted to that are the greater duties that a man has to uphold, but sometimes neglects because he sees the duties at home and the relationships he has with his nearest and dearest greater than even saving the world.
Needless to say, I felt emotionally moved by this. I saw myself in the shoes of the protagonists, locked in the consequences of my decisions, thinking that at the time, I was making a better choice for my future, and for the futures of those who would come after me. Ultimately, I would find myself in a space of inability to move further beyond the situation that I found myself in. The rut that we put ourselves through because the price we paid for decisions made was too great, and now the debt we have to pay back is more than we can bear. Then we find the effects of our decisions not only have harmed us, but have harmed and will continue to harm those that come after us.
Dean Ormston’s art style takes us on a trip through some of the golden age style of comics and contrasts it with a more modern approach. He really captures the golden age style when its comes to the hero outfits and the characters’ suits. He captures the fantastical and elaborate as well as outlandish and almost impractical look of the Golden age. This art style emphasizes just how much time has passed for the characters and how their style has not kept up.
How Ormston managed to seemingly switch styles to fit the time periods astounds me. In a flashback, it looks like I was viewing a Jack Kirby art style, or maybe an old school Joe Kubert style with the proportions of the bodies, the framing of the scene, accentuated by costuming of many of the characters of that time period. The coloring style of Dave Stewart also does much to highlight that time period, where the colors are vibrant and do their best to catch the eye of the reader along with the costume designs. It was like seeing Luke Cage in his old yellow shirt and chain belt with metal bracers.
Yet the transition Ormston takes to reflect the characters as they are in the present day along with Stewart is stark. We see a more contemporary art style with angles and framing of scenes that reflects the rule of thirds more strictly, while exploring more aspects of over-the-shoulder framing while subduing colors, giving the scene a darker and more melancholy tone. The contrast between what the characters experienced ten years prior and the hopelessness of their situation now is explained in their dialogue, from the frustrated tone of Golden Gail, to the tired and almost apathetic demeanor of Abraham Slam. This hopelessness is also reflected in the art style in how their lives used to be and how life is now.
There is a lot more to be said concerning Black Hammer #7 as one who has, as a kid, seen a swath of colorful comic titles in the early 90’s, and now being a grown-up and seeing all these comics continue as if locked in that time period. I guess this is what Lemire wanted to address as a main issue with many of the comic titles today- a refusal to allow characters to age, to move on, and ultimately to die, and for new blood to take their place. And as someone who is now seeing some of the earlier comic book titles coming to the big screen, and the comic books trying to revive the characters to follow in the footsteps of the movie successes, Black Hammer explores a new concept of jettisoning some would-be throwaway comic book heroes into the present day, allowing them, when put in the right setting and given the proper character development, to be amazing in their own right.
I had to fight back tears reading this. I read that Lemire wanted a bit of humor in this series, but Black Hammer #7 hit on some emotional heartstrings for me that seem to be getting plucked more often nowadays with some recent movies as well as just the personal struggles of getting old, feeling stuck, and looking back on more days than you can count and rethinking your decisions. Having said that, I think it’s amazing what Lemire has done. He took a concept of superheroes that time somehow forgot, and gave them a crisis of character, which is: what do they do in a world that doesn’t need them? That coupled with the art style of Ormston and coloring of Stewart were enough to take me on an emotional roller coaster ride that, as painful as it may be to get on, may be more therapeutic to experience than to not having ridden at all. Needless to say, I will be purchasing the previous issues and look forward to more!
- Story is solid and will get a reader emotionally involved
- Characters are relatable, realistic given their environments
- Art style reflects time periods in an almost uncanny way
- Tackles mature subject matters that may not relate to younger audiences