The crossover event of 2019 has recently been released as a collection. For many readers this is a no-brainer, but you may be asking yourself — is it good, how does it read, and do I need to be familiar with the Black Hammer universe of understand it? Answers are: Yes, great, nope. It’s no surprise this book works thanks to Jeff Lemire and Michael Walsh leading the way on the title. Both creators have proven they can capture good character dynamics within an action/adventure paced to perfection. This five-part series is a great introduction to the Black Hammer characters, but also a fun romp that’ll make you want a sequel.
I’ve dabbled with Black Hammer, but never dove right in. This collection will make you want to dive back into the back issues blindfolded and backward as it’s so very good at introducing Lemire’s colorful characters. Each one gets plenty of entertaining moments to shine, show their true colors, and prove to the reader why they work. The dynamics between the characters are natural and make you believe these characters have long histories together.
Lemire and Walsh cleverly draw you into these characters’ lives using the Justice League characters by juxtaposing the narrative of the first issue with the Justice League in the second issue. We get to see our favorite DC heroes living the same day-to-day lives and how they’re taking their prison. Through this prism, we get some colorful Elseworlds-style takes on the characters — like how Batman patrols in an old truck tracking down cow tippers — which is a fun way to get to know them a bit better.
The action is fun throughout the book, with each super-team getting to take on a major threat that you’ll believe is insurmountable, and yet they persevere. Walsh does an exceptional job drawing moody, atmospheric weirdness that appears in both the Black Hammer scenes and the Justice League scenes. I particularly like how Walsh renders Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman as they have a realistic look that has a good deal of weight behind it. Framing isn’t overly done or dramatic but instead framed like in a movie. It’s easier to connect with the characters because of this measured camera-like style.
All in all, the plot of this book is simpler than I anticipated. It does a good job juxtaposing the Justice League characters on the farm, but it’s more of an end to the first act than a three-act sort of epic. That’s exciting since it seems to be promising more, but like other crossovers, in years past you’ll get the feeling this is the Black Hammer characters’ turn and things will flip to the other side in due time. In effect, it’s like this is holding back ever so slightly.
This is a surprising crossover to be sure, but a welcome one. Both properties are great and this collection is proof that with creative ideas, you can mix up familiar characters and make them feel new again. It’s a testament to the creators that this book feels so natural in an industry where crossovers can feel forced and unnecessary. Give this a read for an action/adventure with colorful characters, but most of all for a good lead-in to the Black Hammer universe.
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