Black Hammer #1 gave us a great introduction, but came up short with its second issue. Promising a closer look at Barbalien, one of the series’ more intriguing characters, can it bounce back with its third issue?
Black Hammer #3 (Dark Horse Comics)
With issue #2 detailing the origin story for Gail, issue three examines Barbalien who is not only a stranger to the town, but a stranger to this world. His story parallels the archetypal alien superhero (shapeshifter from Mars trying to fit in), similar to that of Gail and her wizard-given powers. However, while Gail’s story struggled to pique my curiosity and maintain my interest, Barbalien’s origin is much more emotionally appealing and is sure to become a fan-favorite. The issue chronicles Mark Markz’ journey to earth, his struggles to assimilate with humans and now his attempt to find peace within the town’s church (or those who attend it…wink, wink).
Now being three issues into the series, we’re beginning to recognize the true nature of the storyline. It’s pretty slow to be honest. If you’re looking into Black Hammer for anything remotely fast paced, you’re going to be disappointed. Instead, Lemire is focused on writing a series that both acknowledges heroic archetypes and exposes the nature of heroes outside of their glorified scope. It’s a series that humanizes superheroes similar to that of Ross’ Kingdom Come. Each of these characters has voiced their discomfort and inability to truly be themselves and I think most readers will be able to empathize with at least one of them.
Similar to the end of the first issue, we are once again teased by the current events occurring back in the hero’s home. This is certainly the low point of the series thus far considering Lemire has only given us one page at the end of the first issue and the current issue to hint at a possible rescue mission and it’s simply not enough “shock value” to stimulate any interest whatsoever. Lemire also continues to walk the line between archetypal appreciation and cliché and I’m hoping the next issue will deliver something bold and new.
There is however also something to be said for the quality of artwork in this issue. While I still believe some of the character faces resemble thumb people, Ormston and colorist Dave Stewart show off some impressive scenery both in space and the cityscape. A recent discussion between the other AIPT reviewers inspired me to examine the ink-work itself and this issue is a great example of Stewart’s shadowing skill. The scene with Mark Markz standing outside of the church is particularly impressive with the articulation of the tree’s shadows. Be sure to take some time to appreciate it!
Is It Good?
Issue three is all about Barbalien and his story is particularly good. I’m still hesitant about the series as a whole, but this issue is worth a read just for Mark Markz origin story alone. The art has its moments with some nice scenery shots and some action panels, but the character faces are still underwhelming. The series still has a lot of potential even after the plot has slowed down.