Black Hammer ’45 #1

Story: Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes
Writer: Ray Fawkes
Artist: Matt Kindt
Colorist: Sharlene Kindt
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Review by Jim Allegro

Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes take us back in time in Black Hammer ’45 #1. Released this week from Dark Horse Comics, the latest miniseries to emerge from the Black Hammer universe focuses on the heroics of an elite squadron of Air Force pilots. As World War II nears its end, the Black Hammer Squadron must accept one last assignment. But, to stop a Nazi attempt via inter-dimensional travel, they have to face off against the Ghost Hunter. The specter of the Nazi ace provides for an entertaining story that extends the themes of Lemire’s Golden Age allegory, such as aging, kinship, and memory.

But, above all, this is a comicbook about nostalgia and loss. The writing and art in Black Hammer ’45 continue the melancholy tenor of this series about dislocated heroes and their search for meaning. Ray Fawkes takes over writing duties in this installment. He contributes a well-paced story about a group of young Air Force pilots of color (evocative of DC’s Blackhawks and the Tuskegee airmen). The story opens in the present, with elderly members reuniting in memoriam. Their reminiscences are interspersed with flashbacks to their adventures against dragons, steampunk mechs, and other occult threats.

The artwork is a triumph of technique that evokes the mournful tone of any journey down memory lane. Matt Kindt’s soft and sketchy line work suggests the incompleteness of remembering, especially when it comes to warfare. Sharlene Kindt evokes the simplicity of a bygone time in one’s life with a palette suggesting the pastoral clarity of a watercolor painting. The effect is to remove the events of the comic from time. Like Golden Gail and other heroes of Lemire’s original series, members of the Black Hammer Squadron find themselves isolated from the context of their personal histories.

And, yet, they are not lonely. No one is alone in the Black Hammer universe, Fawkes reminds us with a touching story that circles back to the importance of friendship. Humor, duty, and loyalty bind these forgotten heroes together as they venture out against the Axis powers. Someone doesn’t come home, that much is clear. Although, we will have to read the next issue to come to grips with the tragic loss that follows many men into battle.

Verdict: Buy It!

Black Hammer ’45 #1 is a solid BUY. This miniseries from Dark Horse is another beautiful contribution to a celebrated series. It is an enjoyable reminder of what makes being a comicbook fan so special.

Jim Allegro

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