Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer

Towards the end of November, I was raving to E.A. Henson about a particular comic book series that I was reading. My exact words to him were “it’s some of the best work I’ve ever read”, to which Henson responded “sounds like you’ve got a gift guide entry.”

And so I do. Because Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer is indeed some of the best work I’ve ever read.

Now, this is not a huge revelation to comic book fans, I’m sure. Dark Horse Comics started publishing Black Hammer back in July 2016, and the original series and its various off-shoots have become incredible popular. The concept as a whole is a look at superhero comics through the brilliant storytelling eyes of writer Lemire and artist Ormston.

As per Wikipedia, the log line for the original series that I just finished reading is pretty simple:

Ten years ago, Black Hammer and six other superheroes had saved Spiral City from the Anti-God, but in process became trapped in Rockwood, a timeless Twilight Zone-ish town. Shortly after the heroes arrive, Black Hammer dies. In the present, the six heroes live on Black Hammer farm with very little hope of ever escaping Rockwood.

It sounds straightforward, and in many ways it is. Superheroes trapped someplace. Superheroes want to leave and can’t. And even if that was the story Lemire and Orstom decided to tell, I think Black Hammer would be great. But within the 25 issues of the first series, which Lemire has referred to as ‘Phase 1’ of Black Hammer, the creators lovingly pay tribute to the artists and stories that have influenced this work, not too mention the medium as a whole. Whether you’re a superhero buff or a Vertigo lover or both (and we all know, legions of fans are both), you’re going to smile when Black Hammer pays homage to the familiar tropes all these different genres.

Now, while there are lot of off-shoots that I have yet to delve into, the original run is fairly tight, and there are a few ways for you to read them, or pick them up for the comic book fan in your life.

There are two deluxe hardcover library editions that definitely will look nice on someone’s shelf, but if price and/or space is an issue, you can also pick up the four main trade paperbacks as well. They’re titles:

Black Hammer: Secret Origins
Black Hammer: The Event
Black Hammer: Age of Doom, Part 1
Black Hammer: Age of Doom, Part 2

I’d definitely aim to buy Black Hammer at a local comic book story if you have the option to do curb side pickup in these Covid-19 times. Local sellers need your support now more than ever, and this is the sort of series that comic book shops were made for. However you drop the hammer on Black Hammer, satisfaction is guaranteed.

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