By Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart, Todd Klein
Once again, Dark Horse’s moody and inspired down-to-Earth heroes of Black Hammer earn the title of This Week’s Finest…
The issue opens with a flashback to Golden Gail’s announcement of retirement to her sidekicks as well as her former arch-nemesis turned boyfriend. As this scene of bittersweet joy plays out, the setting snaps back to the present as Gail is hungover in a pub before it opens with the irate owner discovers her.
This issue doesn’t really move forward the larger plot of why our heroes are trapped in this small town, but it does move forward the sub-plots like Barbalien’s crush on the town priest, Lucy Weber’s search for answers, and a little more clarity on Gail’s situation. While we know the larger details of these characters’ roles in the book, Lemire still finds ways to deepen them and examine their lives in different ways. We’ve seen Gail get drunk and swear many times already, yet its easy to forget that Gail suffers in her current form because it reminds her of what she lost while forcing her to act against who she is.
Lucy for her part, discovers that the book’s in the town library on its history are blank. It doesn’t explain the mysterious nature of the town, but it does hint that its existence could be manufactured in some way for our heroes.
On art, Ormston and Stewart are at the top of their game with this issue’s storytelling. Part of what makes Gail’s plight is how the art conveys her elation and frustration back to back from each other in the past and present. Ormston maintains his softer line against Stewart’s subdued color palette. Ormston also slyly illustrates the scene at the church fundraiser as Mark (Barbalien) and the priest talk, with several beats given to play up the tension and Mark’s uncertainty. The last time he expressed feelings like this went badly for him, and could very well go that way again. However, he can’t stop from hoping to find a kindred spirit. Ormston can only rely on handtouches and sideways glances, but its clear and effective to show what is going through Mark’s head.
There is one major event on the final page, as Lemire gives us a shocking cliffhanger to chew on until next month. Like most of Black Hammer’s previous issues, this one is heavy on emotion but moves the story forward just enough to drive us wild. I have no doubt that everything will be revealed in due time, and each character’s story will come to some resolution. Until then, the journey that the creators are taking us on surpasses much of what the Big Two are putting out.
With smart characterization, tantalizing mysteries, and brightly gothic art, Black Hammer #8 continues the series streak as one of the best superhero comics around.
Disclosure: Publisher Dark Horse provided a review copy of this comic to Nothing But Comics without any payment between the site and publisher or agreement on the review’s content.