'Black Hammer '45' #1 Review: An Incredible Addition to the Expanding Black Hammer Universe

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(Photo: Black Hammer '45 / Dark Horse Comics)

Outside of Marvel and DC, it's an increasingly uncommon feat in today's comics landscape to have a shared comic universe that spans over several titles. Yet somehow, Dark Horse Comics manages to pull out the stops every time they roll out a new Black Hammer title that ends up putting the franchise right back into the spotlight.

Black Hammer '45 is a period piece set in the midst of World War II, featuring the Black Hammer Squad — one of the go-to sets of fighter pilots the Allies have access too. Don't let the time period fool you, though. Just because it's set some 70 years ago doesn't mean it's removed from the bizarre world built by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston.

'45 marks the fourth spinoff set in the Black Hammer universe behind Doctor Star, Sherlock Frankenstein, and The Quantum Age, making a bit of history as the first Black Hammer title not written by Lemire — and that much is evident.

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(Photo: Dark Horse Comics)

Ray Fawkes (Gotham by Midnight) takes over the reins for this four-issue miniseries, and the change in tone is palpable. While Lemire leans heavily into to unknown and cosmic side of a superhero adventure, Fawkes' take is much more grounded — dare I say, gritty — than that of his predecessor, and it's a welcome change at that.

It's a move that adds another layer to this universe, and when it comes to an ever-expanding interdimensional romp like Black Hammer, the more the merrier.

Story-wise, Black Hammer '45 features a pulpy war tale that's very reminiscent of pre-superhero Golden Age funny books. While a lot of other Black Hammer titles might take a read through or two to understand what's going on — you know, with the hijinks of Colonel Weird and such — Black Hammer '45 is a pretty straightforward deal.

Instead of relying on powered individuals, Black Hammer '45 pushes the "regular people" into the spotlight, and that's where it succeeds tremendously. Publishers often forget about the John and Jane Does walking down the street while powered heroes and villains fly around crashing into skyscrapers. Luckily this title hits it from the "little" person perspective — think of it like Gotham in a sense; sure, the book is set in a superhero universe, but that's not the main focus.

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(Photo: Dark Horse Comics)

Moving to the artwork, the Kindt's were a fantastic choice for this type of story. In fact, Matt's art with Sharlene's watercolors is a style not unlike Lemire's own art in hits like Sweet Tooth or AD: After Death. Because of the similar art styles, it makes the book feel right at home.

With such a strong debut outing, it's pretty easy to come to the conclusion that any title under the Black Hammer brand is well worth a read. While Black Hammer '45 #1 is clearly setting up for a much larger story, it's a book that shows a tremendous amount of potential. Though Lemire's inspiration is felt throughout the book, Fawkes and Kindt take the Black Hammer universe to a whole new level.

Published by Dark Horse Comics

On March 6, 2019

Story by Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes

Written by Ray Fawkes

Art by Matt Kindt

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Colors by Sharlene Kindt

Letters by Marie Enger