Story: Jeff Lemire, Ray Fawkes
Art: Matt Kindt
Colors: Sharlene Kindt
Letterer: Margie Enger
What They Say:
During the Golden Age of superheroes, an elite Air Force crew called the Black Hammer Squadron was formed to fight the Axis powers. Facing occult threats from the German side, this team must save a family of scientists from the Nazi’s. But the mysterious and dangerous Ghost Hunter is hot on their trail.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
We’ve had a number of very solid and diverse expansions for the world of Black Hammer since the original series came out. I’ve pretty much enjoyed all of them but I’ll admit I was really curious as to what Black Hammer ‘45 would be like. With story ideas from Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes, Fawkes took on the main script and worked with Matt Kindt to bring it to life. I’m a big fan of both Lemire and Fawkes so this worked well and I definitely enjoy Kindt’s art style, which delivers something that feels properly old-school indie and unique and that really does fit this particular storyline. The only downside to the production was a hard to read narration/lettering style that made me thankful I could zoom in a bunch through the digital copy to read. Script is something I can read easily but there are styles of it that just frustrates when it comes to comics.
We’re dropped into this a little awkwardly and it takes some time for it to find its groove so we can connect with it. We get a little bit of time in the present with a couple of survivors of the Black Hammer Squadron from WWII as they prepare to honor a particular anniversary as they have for every year. It’s a neat sequence that will answer more as it goes along I’m sure but it’s good just to engage with the two men here, the captain with Hawthorne and his friend Li that served with him in the unit. The bulk of the book takes place in ‘45 though, as we get introduced to how the group delved into a range of hard missions and impossible tasks that often had them dealing with the super-powered out there, like Golden Gail, or the crazy advances in technology, like the Red Tide from Russia with their mecha. There’s a good montage of material early on that shows how over the top some of it was and how well the handled it all, with lots of professionalism.
Where it wants to put its main focus is on the early part of April 1945 as we get into the waning weeks of the war and some of the more problematic missions that arrive. The group is assigned a mission that they have to completely forget about once it happens by going just past Vienna to rescue a scientist and his family before the Red Tide acquires him. The German’s won’t kill him since they know how smart and valuable he is but there’a real sense of dread about the mission because it’s something that they feel any other group could do. But when they hear that the Ghost Hunter is involved, a legendary pilot of a White Stuka, it sends ripples of panic with some. The combination of three distinct forces racing toward this location and the uncertainty of what the scientist was working on that could take it to a whole other level of dangerous ups the interest, especially since we know from the present day that things do go badly along the way here.
The opening installment of Black Hammer ‘45 has some intriguing moments to it as I like the idea of exploring soldiers, even elite soldiers, in how the war would be different with the powered characters flitting about. Fawkes and Lemire have some solid ideas here and Fawkes’ script keeps things moving in past and present as it begins to explore events leading up to a fateful mission. Matt Kindt is a bit of an acquired taste when it comes to his artwork and I do enjoy it for the most part, including here, but it felt like combined with the script and the lettering style that it took a bit to really connect with who is who and who it is we really need to pay attention to. I’m definitely looking forward to more of what’s to come as this offers up a lot of tantalizing material.
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: March 6th, 2019