Trapped in the strange town of Rockwood, Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Barbalien, and the rest of the team are learning to live in their new surroundings. The oddities are starting to bubble up to the surface, even more so with the arrival of Lucy Weber. How can you come to terms with living a run-of-the-mill life in a podunk town when you were once the fabled heroes of Spiral City? More importantly, how do you find out who you really are when the world around you is trying to force you into a boring mold?
Black Hammer #11 from Dark Horse Comics continues a fascinating character study in modern super heroes. This issue focuses primarily on Barbalien. We see flashbacks of his life prior to the team’s exile. Things weren’t so great for him in Spiral City, despite being a hero and stopping all sorts of crime both as a caped crusader and as a police officer. He was harassed by his fellow officers and called derogatory names all because he was different. Fast forward to today when he makes a move with the local priest and it all blows up in his face. The feelings are not reciprocated and he’s left to doubt himself. How could he be wrong about something he was so sure of?
Barb’s story, both in the past and the present, show him in his darkest moments. He is lower than he’s ever been and ready to do something drastic and dangerous. While he’s tied up with his own issues, Golden Gail is preparing to take similar actions. She’s been hung up on Barbalien forever and he’s clearly not feeling the same way.
The super hero aspect of the characters’ lives is the least interesting thing about them. These internal struggles and the relationships between them is what is propelling Black Hammer and making it such an incredible read. Although Barbalien is a super powered being from a far away world and Golden Gail is a mystically powered woman trapped in a little girl’s body, at the end of the day, they go through the same trials and tribulations we all do. They love and want to be loved in return. Sometimes you just need to know that there’s someone else out there that cares for you.
Artist Dean Ormston captures these emotions perfectly. You can feel the heartbreak that both of the characters are going through. You can see the sadness and frustration in Barb’s eyes and the depression in Gail’s. You just want to give them a hug. This comes through in Barb’s alien form and his human form. Even when he looks like a big scab with antennae, you still want to pull him close and tell him that everything is going to be alright.
Although this issue deals with some deep issues, it appears like any other day. Colorist Dave Stewart makes Rockwood look like any other town in America. No one would suspect that there were super heroes in their midst, let alone ones that were on the brink of suicide.
Stewart uses shadow sparingly, but very effectively. It comes out in the darkest moments (no pun intended), when the characters are at their lowest. They are seen in silhouette or with their faces hidden in shadow. It adds so much weight to the scene.
Black Hammer #11 is a comic that will make you feel something. Writer Jeff Lemire has crafted an emotional and powerful story. You’ll finish this comic and want to immediately call someone in your life and tell them you love them.
Also, it should be noted that if you’re having thoughts about ending your life, please, please, please talk to someone. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) is available 24 hours a day. The world is better with you in it.