The Black Hammer universe is ever-expanding and it’s getting a new shot of newness this week with Colonel Weird: Cosmagog #1. Tyler Crook of Harrow County joins Jeff Lemire as they explore Colonel Randall Weird’s character. He’s always been a bit odd and strange, but now it’s time to delve into who he is and how he got here. This series embarks on a character study, but also an origin story like no other.
This is a trippy book via its visuals, but also its plotting. It opens with Randall appearing on a highway in the middle of nowhere with only a gas station nearby. He’s out of sorts but soon finds himself entering the gas station for soda pop. Problem is, it’s a run-down shop, but soon he’s transported to another time and place. Via a cool liquid effect, Crook has the character change forms and soon we’re seeing Randall experience what appears to be a memory from when he was a child. This trippy moment is just one of many where Randall is remembering things and since he’s as confused as we are we’re along for the ride.
In many ways, this book reads like an exploration of themes we’ve seen in other stories. The time travel abilities of Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five, for instance, or the odd nature to the character who seems untethered from reality like Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen. As a longtime comic book reader, these connections seem unmistakable — similar to how Skulldigger & Skeleton Boy connects to The Dark Knight — which creates a different kind of relationship with the work one might have with a straight sci-fi story.
An important element in this book is how it doesn’t forget Randall is a normal person who has lost his way. His powers are amazing and he reacts to them and the weirdness around himself as one might expect. That makes it easy to follow along and feel gripped with anxiety and confusion as Randall does too. Crook’s impeccable at capturing the often unnerving fear and confusion of Randall every step of the way.
As far as the structure of the story, by the end, you’ll be ready to explore Randall’s next step since this issue acts as a primer or outline of what we might explore in the series. It’s a cool way to prepare the reader for the key moments in Randall’s life so as to hold his life in your mind’s eye before diving in to understand him. You’ll also feel for him as he’s an innocent old man who is confused and quite lost. To see his other selves embrace him is quite a moving moment in the narrative.
The art is incredible, capturing the olden times well, but also the fantastical. Since much of the book takes place in a dusty run-down gas station in the middle of nowhere, there’s realism and calm to the book that plays well off the amazing cosmic elements. Colors by Dave Stewart maximize the wonderfully weird and chaotic beats with sickly green and hellish reds and oranges. Stewart’s colors have a watercolor look that makes things look rustic and dreamlike.
This is a standout comic longtime Black Hammer readers will love, but newbies who dabble can enjoy too. As a standalone comic book, Colonel Weird: Cosmagog is exceptionally written, plotted, and illustrated. If you’re like me and are loving the soon to be finished Skulldigger and Skeleton Boy, you’d do well to jump on board with this new series.