The first issue of the Black Hammer and Justice League crossover set high expectations. The story is predictable — the antagonist uses his powers to rip each team of heroes from their own universe and place them in the other’s for some unknown reason. The familiar premise doesn’t prevent the story from being interesting, however. Writer Jeff Lemire does a great job of introducing the characters and building the mystery. Artist Michael Walsh makes the heroes of both teams look great. But can the series live up to its strong opening?
Issue #2 is another fun read. When we last left the two teams, the heroes of the Black Hammer universe were about to deal with the threat of Starro. Outwardly, they seemed to be ready; but it has been a long time since they have been superheroes. Meanwhile, the Justice League have basically been trapped on a farm for the past ten years. They are still trying to learn to live normal lives.
Lemire does a great job of further exploring this change for the two teams in the second issue. Bruce Wayne may be trapped to the confines of Rockwell, but that does not prevent him from attempting to keep his mantle has the World’s Greatest Detective. Meanwhile, Abraham Slam is still attempting to be the heroic leader he has always been to his compatriots. Lemire does a great job of showing that as much as the setting may have changed, the people have not.
The books of Black Hammer have always been great at telling deep stories about their characters. Hammer of Justice! #2 gives readers a glimpse of this. At the end of the debut issue, Diana Prince attempts to convince Clark Kent and Bruce their lives have changed. This is seen in greater detail in the second issue. In a great scene that shows the emotions of two characters, Diana tries to explain to Cyborg why they must adapt to their new surroundings. In doing so, it gives insight into the pain two characters are going through and the ways they are trying to cope with it. It is an especially powerful moment since the loss the two are feeling are different at their core but the entire scene is still something readers can understand.
That’s not to say that Hammer of Justice! is afraid to use humor. The book is filled with laughs that add to the severity of the situation. Bruce knows that something is wrong based on a recent incident at a farm. In Metropolis, Golden Gail is under Starro’s control which leads her to go after Dragonfly. Both scenes naturally bring laughs to the story. There is another great moment involving Gail in which she wonders why she is unable to speak as colorfully as she normally does.
Hammer of Justice! #2 is a very character-driven issue. This is not just a story about two teams of heroes being displaced; this is also a tale of people who are trying to readjust their lives. The cast of Black Hammer have to knock off years of rust to become the superheroes they once were. In a great battle scene, the team is seen almost trying to convince themselves they are up to the challenge. Diana, Bruce, and Cyborg are not the only ones who feel lost in Rockwell. Despite outward appearances, Clark is also having difficulty adjusting. The book has a number of characters, but Lemire manages to give insight into every one of them.
Of course, there is still the big mystery to deal with. Black Hammer’s Colonel Weird and DC’s John Stewart are working together to help their friends. This part of the issue is given the least amount of time. Interspersed throughout the issue, the two try to solve a conundrum that involves time and reality. They almost serve as a narration device for the story. They will probably end up playing a bigger part before the series ends, but putting the focus on the characters over the mystery has been the goal the first two issues.
Walsh’s art does a great job of displaying the various emotions felt in the issue. Readers can see the frustration in Bruce and the sadness in Clark. The shadowing is excellent throughout the entire book, particularly in the scene involving Cyborg. The action in Metropolis is more brightly lit and shows off the dichotomy between the two groups. The Justice League are forced to accept their separation while the Black Hammer group get the chance to be heroes again. It is great visual storytelling.
Black Hammer/Justice League: Hammer of Justice! #2 is a great superhero comic. The heroes have been sent to different universes and are now forced to live different lives. Lemire’s work shows the difficulty the Justice League is having being normal while Walsh’s art hints that the team from Rockwell are confused but not necessarily opposed to what is happening. It will be interesting to see what happens next.