Black Hammer Visions launched in February, promising killer creative teams who are given free rein to do what they want with the wonderful world created by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston. Out this week is the final issue, Black Hammer Visions #8, which is written by Scott Snyder with art by David Rubín. If you’re tapped into comics at all, those two names on the cover should make you scream “’nuff said.”
This final chapter features two stories that connect by its end, featuring the superhero known as the Horseless Rider. Set in 1880, a man steals from the dead, digging up graves. In the 1950s, another man steals from the dead, only he does it as a caretaker in an old folks home. Both are equally guilty, but how can justice be served for those who can’t seek it for themselves?
This issue opens with an old man named Buck in a wheelchair being carted by a nurse named Eddley. They seem friendly enough, but soon we see Eddley likes to tool around rooms when old folks aren’t around and fish through their things. As he digs into a pile of jewelry, we see the Horseless Rider looking on from the shadows. Cut to 1880 and a man hides behind a tombstone speaking to the reader via captions of how he steals, but it’s not from the living.
What may not be obvious is how this is actually an origin story for the Horseless Rider. Giving nothing away, Snyder builds towards this origin in an unexpected way. There are western themes and tropes at work here that give the superhero a unique feel that feels right for the Western. One weakness might be a lack of clarity of where the story is going in the opening, but once it becomes clear things start to make sense.
Letters by Nate Piekos add a handwritten feel to the captions with some smart choices for word balloons to define who is speaking. Letter weight also varies, adding character to the handwritten styles.
It’s unclear if Piekos does all the sound effects, though it is clear Rubín is behind a lot of them as they interact with the imagery directly in some cases. The art here is moody, especially in the 1880s scenes with a blood-red sky and interesting textures in the landscapes. The scenes in 1950 are darker in tone — there’s a haunted feel to them, and there’s a brooding nature that’s unmistakable. If you’ve ever read Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, one might surmise after reading this Rubín should be tasked with adapting the book. It exemplifies the evil nature in the scenes casting them into a supernatural feel.
Black Hammer Visions #8 is an absorbing blend of Westerns with a superhero twist. The visuals are haunting, moody, and of a caliber that suit the subject matter.
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