Black Hammer: Age of Doom #6
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Rich Tommaso
Jeff Lemire continues to churn out gorgeous storylines, soulfully bounded by the strictures of days-of-yore comics. Rich Tommaso is a change of artist from your usually-scheduled Dean Ormston, but don’t let the more simplistic Golden-Age illustration fool you. The line work may be cleaner and lighter, but the composition of the panels is incredibly rich and rife with cultural allusions. Black Hammer, at its best, allows for a distillation of classical mythos and visual balance. Age of Doom #6 has an astounding amount of eye candy, along with a lovely character dive into Colonel Weird, who has arguably been the most intriguing question mark of the series. The fact that it’s a heavily meta issue, drawing eyes to what “the boss wants” in terms of setting as entire worlds dissolve and are remade is wonderfully humorous and smart, especially when it’s throwing even the reality-defying Colonel Weird for a loop.
With the revelations of issue #5 still quaking in the background, the first of this two-issue Tommaso-illustrated interlude provides a nice break to allow the mental dust to settle. Black Hammer is a truly fun read, but it’s not for nothing that it’s so highly regarded as thought-provoking. The conceit of a world half-finished characters, where Weird finds himself, is especially compelling, and like the fate of Bing-Bong in the film Inside Out, emotional. While the reality the story takes place in may be nothing more than a metaphorical dustbin, it’s no less stirring, and Lemire is preternaturally disciplined in his breadcrumb trails. Perhaps by the end of Colonel Weird’s solo outing, the pieces will have come together a bit more.
Writer: Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garbett
The first leg of Skyward was shocking, amusing, and, ultimately, heart-wrenching. Joe Henderson’s thoughtful examination of a world without gravity has left the big city for the wide-open mystery of the countryside. “Here There Be Dragonflies” is not only a clever title for the next leg in Willa’s journey to restore gravity, but it’s a wonderfully pure expression of fantasy and science-fiction. Non-fey butterfly cavalry? Henderson’s got it covered, and the highly competent illustration of Lee Garbett continues to bring life to these high-floating ideas and concepts. The strongest attribute of Skyward is that it literally turns safe-spaces on their head. While a forest may seem like a reasonable spot to hunker down in the event of low to no gravity, we find out exactly how flawed that is when the sun goes down.
The emotional core of the story isn’t far from the insectoid romp of the first two issues of this new volume. This is an emotional read, but the sweetness never really skews saccharine. Willa’s a total badass, and her magnetism on the page and off are unquestionable. While the fan-service to hard science fiction and fantasy is decidedly muscular, the heavy lifting is the well-crafted story. Evil corporations and megalomaniacal industrialists are one thing, but said despot endangering several trainloads of people to face man-eating insects the size of elephants? That’s some next-level territory, from suspension of disbelief to simply keeping it grounded. For a comic book where gravity isn’t a thing, that’s no small feat.
Writer: Nnedi Okorafor
Artist: Leonardo Romero
The world of Wakanda has always had strong roots in futurism, from the first appearance of Black Panther way back in Fantastic Four #52, to the current iteration of an amnesiac T’Challa lost in the Wakandan Galactic Empire. The interest the Black Panther film generated in the world of Wakanda cannot be overstated, however, especially since Ta-Nehisi Coates took the reigns, Wakanda’s time in the sun seemed an eventuality. Even without the dazzling achievements of the MCU, the world of Wakanda is a powerful and inspiring symbol. Shuri, a breakout hit character portrayed by Letitia Wright on the silver screen, was already a powerhouse in the pages of Black Panther, well before the film had begun shooting. Shuri’s role in Wakandan current events and her relation with the Wakandan collective afterlife was a lynchpin of A Nation Under Our Feet, and the story of Shuri in this debut issue of the eponymous title is powered by those factors.
For the futuristic world of Wakanda and a deeper exploration of Shuri, it’s only appropriate that Marvel bring in Hugo Award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor. Leonardo Romero brings a disciplined and authoritative style that brings life to the background hum of Wakandan life but keeps the characters front and center with excellent close work. Okorafor leans on Shuri’s wit and youth here; while she may have a direct line to Wakandan ancestors, she’s ever the little sister of T’Challa. With a convocation of “The Trunk”- a meeting of women- called to help determine Wakanda’s fate in the absence of T’Challa, the theme of youth and seasoned wisdom in conflux is a driving factor. Enter Shuri as the favored heir to the mantle of Black Panther in her brother’s absence. It’s a role she’s filled before, but never before with such a deeply explored and developed history, nor with the bandwidth generated from Shuri’s time on the big screen. Between the adventures of Shuri and T’Challa’s intergalactic quest to find home, fans have plenty of reasons to resound “Wakanda Forever” while they wait for Black Panther II to drop.