Anyway, this... BLACK HAMMER #1 Art by Dean Ormston Written by Jeff Lemire Coloured by Dave Stewart Lettered by Todd Klein Dark Horse Comics, Inc. DIGITAL: £1.99 (2016) Black Hammer created by Dean Ormston & Jeff Lemire Black Hammer © ™ 2016 171 Studios, Inc., and Dean Ormston
This is one of those slightly cheeky comics in which all the characters are heavily reminiscent of popular superhero characters. Teeny tweaks have to be made so that Ormston and Lemire can use the archetypal aspects of the originals, but don't have to spend the rest of their lives in court rooms being sued by people who have only ever exercised creativity in their theft of the fruit of other people's talent. The upside of the Cheeky Tweak © ™ is the authors (writer and artist) can actually tell a real story with a point, during which the characters can change or even die; without every development being undermined by the knowledge that nothing too thrilling will stick, because the real money is in selling Captain Arsegrapes © ™ branded shit to kids. The downside is that, as here, changing C*****n M****l into a girl called Golden Gail means you don't get to be fellated on talk shows because, say, you have written The Tin Can © ™ as the same shit quipping character you always write but, crucially for World Peace, have instructed the artist to draw a black woman with a big afro like fucking Sheba, Baby (1975) just came out yesterday. AND THE WALLS COME TUMBLING DOWN!!!!! Now, over to Patrice with a funny story about Tom Hardy's dogs. Patrice...
The first test of a Cheeky Tweak © ™ is how good are the names? Because I don't know about you (who does? Your Rabbi. So behave.) but I am astounded people can still come up with good super hero names. Here we have Abraham Slam, Col Weird, Talky-Walky, Barbalien, Golden Gail, Madame Dragonfly and Black Hammer. I think that's a pretty nifty range of names. I'll not go into who they all map across to, because that's part of the fun of a Cheeky Tweak © ™ too. However, I will say that we find most of them trapped in a Small Town America © ™ setting which is so cliched it must be so on purpose, which suggests that all is not...as it seems! (foreboding music)! Finding themselves confined to Norman Rockwellville since saving the world at great cost, they have each adapted to differing extents, and as a whole have formed a bickering and somewhat unstable parody of the family unit. This is the most enjoyable aspect of the issue; having the characters interact and seeing how their interactions define them. Obviously for that to work they actually all have to have different characters, and, you know, not all sound like the same middle aged white male speaking through multiple mouths. Jeff Lemire has a pretty good handle on character as far as I can tell, and the upshot of that is I'd quite happily spend more time with these folk. Dean Ormston's not really being pushed yet, but he brings a creepy vibe to the normalcy (which is so excessively so it just isn't normal). I'm used to his fully painted stuff so I'm enjoying the McKeever vibe of his stripped back work here. There's clearly bad times ahead, maybe good times too, probably a whole lot of trouble en route, and it'll be fun seeing this bunch get shoved through the wringer. Oh, there's emotional subtlety too, I nearly forgot that. There's a really nice bit of business with
Adam Strange Col. Weird whose space sickness resembles a cosmic form of senile dementia. His interactions with his robot pal, Talky-Walky, are kind of...affecting. Hoo-HAH! Anyway, it's a promising start and I'll probably stay on board. GOOD!
THE EXPERTS #1 All by Sophie Franz Retrofit Comics & Big Planet Comics, DIGITAL: £1.99 (2016) The Experts created by Sophie Franz The Experts © 2016 Sophie Franz
This is an odd one. It's a done-in-oner, and the synopsis while perfectly true may lead you to expect some kind of ALIENS on a seabase action fest, with maybe some of the character stuff from John Carpenter's THE THING, but in a Indie Stylee art wise. Because you should always be expecting that, because that would be a great comic. It wouldn't be this comic though. No, this comic takes the set up for a creepy horror movie (three experts on an isolated sea base surrounded by weird creatures lose touch with the mainland and, slowly, themselves) and twists it into an evocative mood piece; one seemingly constructed of vaguely related emotional set pieces presented via an inscrutable system of symbols unique to the author but anchored in the mundane we all share. Look, I know what I mean! Clearly then, it's the kind of thing I have a hard time describing. It's the kind of comic where one of the characters has turned into a fish but no one mentions it for so long you start doubting the fact that it is indeed a big fish eating and kvetching at the dinner table; the kind of comic where things happen but don't seem to happen so barely do they disturb the narrative meniscus, and when they do happen it's left entirely to you as to whether they were a good thing or a bad thing; it's the kind of comic where a dog can't speak French but can understand it; it's the kind of comic that's only 28 pages long but every page works; it's the kind of comic we need more of.
Since it's the creation of a single brain it would be a task beyond my limited capabilities to disentangle the writing from the art. So I won't. Sophie Franz' storytelling here is exceptional stuff. There are all kinds of approaches to the colouring, including pastels for the in-story sketches, plain flat for the characters, thick washes for the sea and sky, and even colour without any holding lines at all when Frankie flips out a bit. The actual linework is mostly in a lightly Clowesian mold, which Franz uses to deliver some absolutely spot-on posture work (check out the panel on p.21 of the feet walking away from us: The Sauce? C'est Awesome!) and it's just generally and genuinely a visual delight. Despite its brilliance it still isn't going to be for everyone. It is after all the kind of comic where a dog is set adrift in a rowboat with a shopping list tied to its head, and (thanks to Franz' skills) it isn't wacky or odd, it's just plain moving. Ultimately, THE EXPERTS is the kind of comic that can make you cry without you knowing why. EXCELLENT!
Superheroes and dogs that cant speak French, it's gotta be – COMICS!!!