Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dean Ormston
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Todd Klein
Cover: Dean Ormston & Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Stepping back from the mystery of their imprisonment, we explore some of the hero’s personal demons.
The overarching storyline of this series has been the heroes trying to escape the small-town purgatory they’ve been trapped in for over ten years, but what Lemire has done best is showing the internal struggles of these characters. In the last issue, we got a glimpse of who may be pulling the strings in this small town, but this issue is more about personal battles.
We join Barbalien in a flashback, before being cast out of Spiral City, dealing with being a homosexual detective in an intolerant department. At first glance, Barbalien seems like a Martian Manhunter facsimile with shades of Dr. Manhattan, but Lemire gives him a richer personality through realistic problems. Showing these character’s deeper motivations has been a constant thread through this book, but this issue brings a couple of the more depressing stories to a head. He does a great job of juxtaposing Gail’s surrender to her desperation against Barb’s unwillingness to give in.
Ormstom has been a more than suitable art choice for this book. His style falls somewhere between Lemire’s own art and Gabriel Ba’s. With Stewart on colors, this world is bleak, but still inviting. It all seems right at home in Dark Horse’s line up.
In less than a year of releases, the creators have established a living world in this small town. Each time they showed the, titular, black hammer laying unmoved near the limits of their prison, it evoked a sense of the weight these characters carry with them. It’s amazing that this title, populated by so many recognizable comic book archetypes, has been one of the most unique releases this year. While I would suggest this book to almost any reader, long-standing comic fans will find even deeper layers to this story.