Black Hammer #12 Is The Perfect Way To Handle A Flashback Issue

by James Ferguson

We’ve seen the heroes of Spiral City struggle to come to terms with their strange imprisonment at Black Hammer Farm. They’ve been there for ten years and have no idea how to get out or why they’re there. Lucy Weber, the daughter of Black Hammer has found them, but how did she make her way to this bizarre land? Black Hammer #12 from Dark Horse Comics takes a break from the current storyline to show us Lucy’s origin story.

I have a love-hate relationship with flashback issues. I understand and appreciate their importance in filling in the gaps of a character’s history, but it can often take away the momentum of a storyline. In the right hands, it can be a powerful tale. I’m happy to say that is the case here. Writer Jeff Lemire crafts a compelling story showing what Spiral City has been like for the past ten years in the absence of its heroes. We’ve only seen this from the perspective of folks like Abraham Slam and Golden Gail. Now we see what it’s like for the people they left behind. Can they pick up the pieces after such a devastating event?

Artist David Rubin showcases the destruction left in the wake of the final battle. The city is in ruins. The sky is dark and full of smoke and ash. It looks hard to breath in this environment, let alone live. Now these poor people have to pick up the pieces and move on.

The issue picks up ten years ago, just after the heroes disappeared. Dr. James Robinson, formerly the hero known as Doctor Star, (and who bears a striking resemblance to comic book writer, James Robinson who had a monumental run on DC’s Starman), serves as a guiding light for young Lucy. He pops up in important moments in her life to guide her in the right direction.

Lucy takes center stage and holds onto it firmly. Her story is captivating as she has to come to grips with the fact that she’s lost her father, in addition to one of the greatest heroes Spiral City has ever seen. The worst part is that she can’t talk to anyone else about it except for her mother and Doctor Star. Revealing that she’s Black Hammer’s daughter could put her and her mother’s lives in danger.

There is a heartbreaking scene where Lucy has to talk about what her parents do for a living at school. Other kids talk up their mom and dad and how cool and influential they are. Lucy begrudgingly gets up to the front of the room and tries to avoid mentioning her father. When she’s forced to, she remembers some of the exciting adventures and battles he went on to save the city, but she can’t mention any of them. Instead, she has to lie about it and quietly sit down.

Rubin shows a nice contrast between the bombastic super heroics of Black Hammer and Lucy’s bashful moments in class. Black Hammer is larger than life battling monsters that are three times his size. Meanwhile, Lucy is trying her best to remain unseen, shrinking into herself.

You can see why someone like this would do anything to recapture that feeling of pride. I’m sure anyone who has lost a parent would feel similarly. There are stages to accepting a loss and family of super heroes probably have a hard time going through them with the possibilities of resurrection out there.

Her father’s disappearance comes to define who Lucy is. It carries through to her adult life as everyone else has moved on. She can’t let it go. That’s what drives her to seek out the heroes. You see that determination on her face as we get closer to the present day. The meek little girl is gone, replaced by a strong, independent woman who is following in her father’s footsteps in more ways than one.

Black Hammer presents a riveting character study for Lucy, who has only been recently introduced into the series. It immediately solidifies her as a major player in the story, as if she’s been there from the beginning. This is the kind of expert level storytelling we’ve come to expect from Black Hammer and I’m happy to say it continues to deliver.

Black Hammer #12 is currently available at your local comic shop or digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.