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Black Hammer Volume 1: Secret Origins: 11/14/17

Black Hammer Volume 1: Secret Origins by Jeff Lemire

Black Hammer Volume 1: Secret Origins by Jeff Lemire is a culmination of a ten year project. Per the back of book explanation, Lemire had originally planned to illustrate the comic himself but The Sweet Life ended up being a huge success and the project took most of his time, putting his idea to make a super hero comic on hold. Lemire ended up collaborating with Dean Ornstron for illustrations and Dave Stewart for coloring to create the first volume of Black Hammer.

Secret Origins opens at an out of the way farm house – the sort of location that brings to mind "It's a Good Life."

farm house

By the establishing shot, if you will, of the farm house, circling crows, and swirling gold and brown colors, we know we're in a crossing the cornfield story. Because of the visceral ties to the Jerome Bixby horror short story, I went immediately with an incarceration story. The main characters in this comic are trapped here.

Each chapter (or issue) follows the origin story of each of the main characters. The one most upset by their incarceration is a young girl who once upon a time was The Golden Gail. She was given her powers by a wizard. As she grew up in her mundane form, her super hero form, remained in the state it was when she was first given her powers. Through the course of the chapter we learn that she's an elderly woman — now permanently stuck in a preteen body and in this world, perpetually forced to go to school to keep up appearances.

school bus

Colonel Weird's chapter gives hints to the nature of their incarceration — or at least to the shape of the "cornfield." Again, we're taken back to Bixby's story, which ends with the surviving characters wondering if anything exists beyond the world that Anthony created upon his birth. Is it possible to escape? Or are they the last living creatures in the entire universe?

Through Weird, we're given hints to the nature of the incarceration. As a young man, he's exploring the outer reaches of known space. Just as he's about to head back, he spots a portal or a rip in space. He choses to explore it, and ends up trapped in a science fiction type of faerie world where time and space lose their meaning. As he didn't know or couldn't recognize the path, he's fallen off the road and is forever lost. Being lost has cost him his youth and his sanity. Though he can leave the portal (and the town he and his compatriots are trapped in) temporarily, he can't take any of them with him, nor can he make his escape permanent.

Finally, there is the titular character. Black Hammer — the reason that everyone is trapped in this rural town — this atemporal utopia — is dead. He died in whatever calamity brought the others here. But his daughter who is on the other side of the "cornfield" in an urban setting, a safe place, a starting point for road trips. She is far enough away from the cornfield in time and space to be the most likely person to mount a rescue. Though an adult, she can also invoke "orphan magic" to cross the uncharitable.


Let anyone doubt that this is a crossing the cornfield story, in one of the flashbacks, Lemire includes a battle between Barbalien and Taurus — a minotaur shaped robot. It's a single panel, really more of a throw away detail this early on, but it's there as a reminder, an acknowledgement that we are in the cornfield and not just anyone type, but a labyrinth, thus further signaling incarceration.

Volume two, "The Event" which brings together the next six issues is released in January 2018.

Five stars

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