Staff Graphic Novel Review: Black Hammer

Your library’s staff is busy preparing for its third fandom convention, LibCon III: Close Encounters of the Nerd Kind, on Saturday, June 22! One of the coolest parts of the convention will be the panel discussions and guest speakers, and Adult Services Library Assistant (and resident graphic novel expert!) Daniel Whisenhunt will be on one of those panels. Below, he shared his thoughts on a graphic novel that he loves and will discuss on his panel.

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I’ve been trying to decide which graphic novels to cover in the Developing Your Comic Book/Graphic Novel Collection Panel at LibCon III, and the first title that came to mind is Black Hammer: Secret Origins written by Jeff Lemire with art by Dean Ormston. The first volume of this graphic novel series was released in March 2017 and included Issues 1-6.

The first thing that strikes you when you pick up the series is the unusual graphic style. The art never tries to be realistic. In the afterword, Lemire says he thought it was important for Black Hammer not to look anything like mainstream superhero comics. He wanted the series to stand outside of superhero comics and to comment on them, not become one of them. For this, Ormston’s art style was deemed perfect.

The series begins 10 years after Black Hammer and his six companions saved Spiral City from the Anti-God. Their sacrifice has trapped them in Rockwood, a timeless rural community they can’t leave. But shortly after the heroes arrive in Rockwood, Black Hammer dies attempting to escape; he flies to the outskirts of the town and is killed instantly by unseen forces. The remaining heroes decide to settle into their new lives without any hope of getting back home. The conflict that pushes the story forward is each character’s ability or inability to fit into this new life in Rockwood.

The characters are a wonderful blend of Silver Age mainstays. The Black Hammer is a mix of Jack Kirby’s Thor with a touch of New Gods thrown in. Golden Gail is an adult version of Mary Marvel but still trapped in the body of a young girl with incredible powers. The craziest is Col. Weird, an Adam Strange doppelganger who has gone completely mad. But my favorite of the ensemble is Barbalien, Warlord of Mars, who is a crimson copy of the Martian Manhunter.

As a child of the eighties, I was raised on comic books. The world of superheroes was the first mythology that I was taught. So, a graphic novel that plays with the concepts of the Silver Age of heroes was going to make me an instant fan. I looked forward to reading this title as soon as it entered the library’s collection, and it did not disappoint.

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Find Black Hammer: Secret Origins here and in your library’s adult graphic novel section, then come to Daniel’s panel at LibCon III to hear his thoughts! Download the LibCon III brochure here to find out more about the day’s panels and guest speakers, as well as info about submitting to the art contest and registering for the cosplay contest. Follow Johnson City Public Library on Facebook and Instagram for updates on LibCon III.

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