Black Hammer #1 was an introduction to a strange and lovable team of retired super heroes trying to “fit in”. In the second issue, Jeff Lemire focuses mostly on Golden Gail by diving into her backstory and current situation on the farm. Gail was a standout character from the beginning of issue #1 and it was a wise choice to give readers a deeper understanding of her.
As a child, Gail ran away from an orphanage and briefly lived on the street. She was sought out by a wizard who chose to pass his magical torch onto her; by saying the word “ZAFRAM” she becomes the mighty Golden Gail. As she grew older and lived a heroes life, saying the magic word returned her to the child’s body she once had while yielding the power of flight and super strength. Now on the farm with her fellow heroes in hiding, the magic word no longer works and she is stuck in her younger form.
Abraham tasks Gail with playing the part of a nine-year-old and attending elementary school, which doesn’t please the 55-year-old woman in the least. She’s caught smoking in the bathroom, forcing Abe and Madame Dragonfly to bail her out once her principal threatens to call children services. Elsewhere, Barbalien assists Talky Walky with an experiment on the perimeter of their town-sized cage.The foul-mouthed, gin-drinking 55-year-old woman trapped in a 9-year-old’s body is so far the star of Black Hammer. Of course, there is still much to uncover concerning the circumstances of this group of misfit, retired heroes. Lemire is tapping into something wonderful with these creepy yet extremely charming, washed-up old weirdos. The retro world of Black Hammer doesn’t just unfold through the art, but mostly in the characters themselves. The setting allows Lemire a lot of creative freedom when it comes to character interactions and so far they have been the highlight of this young series.
Golden Gail is a hilarious yet tortured reverse take on Billy Batson and his Shazam persona, and with Lemire a veteran of the art form, he knew showing readers Gail’s backstory first was the correct course of action. Now that we’ve gotten a glimpse into one of these characters, readers will be begging for the rest of them. There is a ton of history to fill-in if this backstory is any indication of how long these characters may have been around. Lemire should have no trouble keeping us interested along the way with the overall structure he’s laid out so far.Visually, Black Hammer is a pretty dark book and the retro style doesn’t do much to force anything vibrant – exactly how it should be. These characters don’t want to be where they are and don’t seem too happy with how they’ve gotten here. Dean Ormstron and Dave Stewart illustrate this point flawlessly in every panel, with the emotional vibe of each character interpreted without a single word balloon. The approach to design and style choices is a lot of fun, and it doesn’t look like many mainstream comic books. The biggest highlight is the brilliant creature and tech design, all robots and monsters are an absolute joy to soak in.
Black Hammer #2 continues to set the pace for the series: a very dark team with a subtle heart laying just beneath the surface. Jeff Lemire’s vision for each character is quite clear but still readers know almost nothing about them. The mystery behind each future story unfolding will be the driving force behind this book’s success. The only concern readers may have is the lack of action, but this isn’t that kind of comic book. The action explodes when necessary, but we’re here more for the characters and story. I have faith in Jeff Lemire successfully navigating the mine field of comic book tropes doing a book like this, and I can’t wait to see where he takes us.