Thursday, August 03, 2023

Black Hammer Reborn, Part III by Jeff Lemire and Caitlin Yarsky

So this is what "ongoing" means in current comics: twelve issues, basically on a regular cadence, ending on a cliffhanger that, if we want to be charitable, was probably planned as a chapter break. Black Hammer Reborn is over, but it did not end.

Then again, what in superhero comics ever does end?

Black Hammer Vol. 7, Reborn Part III is, as I write this, the most recent publication in the endless, ouroborosian saga of a group of derivative superheroes in a derivative world, with the central McGuffin the title character, in two different incarnations.

Reader, rejoice! For both Black Hammers appear in this book. After multiple books with no Black Hammers, and several with only one - and at least one book, the first in this sequence, with the former Black Hammer, Lucy Weber, never appearing in costume - we have two people in skintight spandex flying around with comically oversized but mostly unadorned hammers, ready and able to whack whatever they want to.

I'm vamping here, because there isn't an ending, and, since this is Part III of something, there's not really a beginning either. Some of the plotlines from the previous two books are wrapped up: in particular, we see what happened to Lucy's family, who were "killed" in the first part of Reborn. [1] We see payoffs for a few things from Reborn I and II, and a fairly by-the-numbers heel-turn "because I'll do anything in the world to save my family," which is walked back almost immediately.

It's all standard superhero stuff, Crisis subdivision: the world is faced by the greatest threat it's ever seen, as always, and only Lucy and her fabulous up-do can save it. We have the Evil Universe and the Good Universe - heroes from the Good Universe are all villains in the Evil Universe, and vice versa, in the kind of moral schema that was pleasant undemanding entertainment for five-year-olds in 1954. There are a passel of other, less obviously morally aligned universes - maybe we'll see the Chaotic Neutral Black Hammer next time? - mostly just for flavor, since they don't do anything. We also get an  Earth-Prime equivalent, which is specifically lampshaded as being better and preferable - let me emphasize that: living in a dumpy little town in the middle of nowhere with rural bumpkins and endless dullness as "normal people" is preferable, for all of these super-beings who were mostly functionally immortal in their original worlds, besides, y'know, having superpowers, than their previous lives in the worlds they used to live in with friends and family and co-workers and everyone else.

(And shouldn't Abraham Slam be about a hundred years old now? If he's in a dirt-normal world, he's under the dirt.)

And, again, it doesn't end here. This story stops, basically, with a lot of things up in the air. But, in just a couple of weeks, there will be a new Black Hammer series which promises to really really end the story. Really. They promise. It's called Black Hammer: The End and everything. They all but say that they won't do any Black Hammer comics after that - how much more serious could they be?

As usual, I find Black Hammer books silly, thin, and ridiculous - not without their enjoyment, but I'm not getting at all out of them what the creators (here series writer Jeff Lemire and artist Caitlin Yarsky) intend. I keep reading them out of habit and for the way they always find a new way to tickle my sense of the ridiculous. (I've written a lot about this series; I'm too tired to add lots of links so here's the whole shebang.) If you enjoy this on a straightforward level, well, ghod bless you and I hope you can still eat soup without assistance.

[1] Note: no reader was convinced for even a second that they were killed. 

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