Title: Black Hammer ’45.
Writer(s): Jeff Lemire& Ray Fawkes
Artist(s): Matt Kindt.
Colourist(s): Sharlene Kindt.
Letterer(s): Marie Enger.
Publisher: Dark Horse Books.
Release Date: October 29th, 2019.
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating: ★★☆☆☆.
Also in the Black Hammer universe:
Black Hammer (Vol. 1): Secret Origins by Jeff Lemire.
Black Hammer (Vol. 2): The Event by Jeff Lemire.
Black Hammer (Vol. 3): Age of Doom (Part One) by Jeff Lemire.
Black Hammer: Streets of Spiral by Jeff Lemire.
What I love most about a fictional world is the characteristic boundlessness that allows all creative minds to expand it in any direction they want. To be able to take elements from an original series—those signature features that make it so distinctive and beloved by fans—and to mold it around completely new settings, eras, and characters is a gift for writers and artists. However, it is also a trap at its core as the possible stories become infinite as long as one’s internal creative machine keeps the wheels turning, whether the story-telling or the artwork is awe-inspiring or not. Take, for example, the ongoing Eisner-award winning Black Hammer series now exploring a World War II action-adventure tale. While the idea might seem promising, it remains to be seen if it can be done tactfully.
What is Black Hammer ’45 about? Set in the Black Hammer universe, this story follows an elite Air Force crew called the Black Hammer Squadron as they set off on a mission to take down the Nazis and their unusual weapons of war, including their invincible aerial pilot, the Ghost Hunter. Collecting Black Hammer ’45 issues #1-4 as well as a short sketchbook section at the end of the volume, this story arc explores the Golden Age of superheroes, paying homage to World War II comic book stories, while remaining very loosely tied to the ongoing Black Hammer series by writer Jeff Lemire and artist Dean Ormston.
Was it so bad? No. It was unfortunately unnecessary. The story unfolds with a dual narrative with one set in the future with some members of the Black Hammer Squadron having reached old age and reminiscing on their past traumatic adventures, and one set in the past, exploring the action-packed ground and air combat between all war parties. While a lot of the action sequences are choppy and barely capture the tense atmosphere that was hoped for, it didn’t help that there was an underlying theme of racism and politics that wasn’t handled skillfully regarding this squad composed of a diverse cast that is constantly overshadowed by the dominating ethnicity despite the risks they take and the bravery they showcase.
Where this story arc particularly lost me is in its mediocre artwork. Although it isn’t my first time running into Matt Kindt’s work, I can indubitably assert that it didn’t work much for the story that wanted to be told. The character designs are horrendous and the transition between panels is incomprehensible; there really isn’t much that’s worth praising about. Rarely, there are some fun splash pages that illustrate some crazy fantasy ideas but in the end, they aren’t enough to save the story or the overall impression left by the artwork. Even Sharlene Kindt’s watercolouring is irrelevant and unimpressive and Marie Enger’s lettering is rough and unfitting. You’d think that a World War II story would know how to translate the emotions felt by the characters—especially in a series that is known to dive deep into the psychology of its characters—but this one just needs to back to the drawing board.
Black Hammer ’45 is a visually disastrous tragedy expanding a thought-provoking series into uncharted World War II territory only to see it crash and go up in flames.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!