The heroes of Black Hammer farm are interrogated by the remaining heroes of the Justice League while Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the others are stuck in a dismal, not quite normal world with seemingly no hope for escape. The cracks are starting to show in this cosmic switch as Green Lantern and Colonel Weird make their way through the Para-Zone. Who is the mysterious stranger that caused all this mayhem? And what happened to the Flash?
There’s a lot going on in Black Hammer / Justice League: Hammer of Justice! #3. Writer Jeff Lemire is juggling a few different storylines across multiple worlds between all these characters, while also weaving them together to tell one overall narrative. All the while, there is some absolutely stunning character work that gets to the heart of who these people are and why we love them. When I say that, I’m not just referring to the Justice League, who we’ve known for decades. The Black Hammer heroes have some real depth to them that is unmatched.
A great example of this is Golden Gail, who lashes out at the world since she’s a grown woman trapped in the body of a child. Think a reverse Shazam. Sure, she’s got some cool powers, but she’s stuck as a kid. Escaping the Black Hammer farm gave her hope of returning to her normal self, however she hasn’t been able to figure it out just yet. You can feel that frustration coming out of her in waves. Gail takes it out on anyone and everyone and I really don’t blame her.
The other Black Hammer heroes have a great opening sequence with Hawkgirl, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter. It’s a fun interview segment where the remaining League members are trying to figure out if these newcomers are bad guys or not. The clash of personalities is hilarious, particularly Barbalien and J’onn J’onzz. The dialogue moves at a brisk pace and it’s a nice way to begin the issue.
Artist Michael Walsh bounces back and forth between both sides of the interrogation so you never see either side together in the same panel. This adds to the fast pace of the scene. Even though there are shape shifters involved, you can tell who’s who based on the background. Walsh makes this look like a dark dungeon with how the scene is lit with a single overhead light tossing up all kinds of shadows around the characters. It looks like it’s going to be a serious sequence but then the Black Hammer folks start talking and that goes right out the window.
Walsh’s colors are solid throughout the entire issue. He sets the tone for every single scene, evoking emotions just from the palette used. This also enhances each sequence. For example, the Para-Zone scene is like outer space, but not like any you are accustomed to. Bright reds and purples swirl through the sky in a trippy manner, adding to the unsettling experience of this place.
I will never get tired of how letterer Nate Piekos brings Colonel Weird’s voice to life. It’s shown in a light grey font in wiggly word balloons, like he’s shell-shocked from everything he’s been through in life.
We’ve got through the basic setup of this big time crossover. Now we’re in the thick of it and it’s paying off for both sides. Swapping locations is a brilliant idea as it provides some very unique perspectives for the heroes of Black Hammer farm and the Justice League. A good crossover has to get past the initial cool idea of having two groups of characters interact. This series has definitely done so, delivering an interesting look at both sides that could have lasting effects.