REVIEW: Black Hammer Justice League #3 features humor and heartbreak in equal measure

Black Hammer Justice League #3 was released on 9/11/2019.

By Nick Couture — Working outside of the big two, Jeff Lemire created his own universe of superheroes. These heroes in Black Hammer are heavily inspired by heroes we know and love. With Black Hammer Justice League #3, Lemire continues to have his cake and eat it too as he brings some DC heroes out of the toy chest and into his universe. Frustrations rise, painful old memories are rehashed, and new characters are brought into the fold, as each team struggles to figure out why their worlds were turned upside-down. Though it will likely be an inconsequential story in the larger context of the Black Hammer yarn, it’s still a must read for Black Hammer fans.

Lemire keeps this issue moving at a great pace. Each character, or small set of characters, is off on their own journey. It gives the book some room to breathe, and it’s fun to see who might come up with the right answers to the mystery first. In lesser hands, this story could feel phoned in, relying solely on the recognition of the DC characters. But Lemire really takes the time to make the DC characters matter. For example, Batman’s frustration feels true to character, putting him in an honest and vulnerable state. These are small and nuanced moments that show real depth of characterization. I dig how Lemire pairs up certain characters. The Colonel Weird and John Stewart team-up is particularly great, with Colonel Weird being a great ethereal foil to John Stewart’s logic. They’re both flying space dudes, but they are each their own unique type of flying space dude. 

Picking great collaborators is so important to a great comic. Lemire understands this, as is evident by his work with Dustin Nguyen, Andrea Sorrentino, Emi Lenox and countless other amazing pencilers, colorists, and letterers. For Black Hammer Justice League, Lemire is accompanied by Michael Walsh, who really is a darn good artist. His work from Comeback, Zero, Secret Avengers, Spectacular Spider-Man, and countless other books has continued to impress me more and more with each new issue. Black Hammer Justice League #3 is no exception, starting with some great facial acting, just 6 panel grids, chest up, characters talking. Those pages cannot be an easy task for most artists, but Walsh beautifully imbues emotion into each character. Little moments like the hand-lettered “wink” Golden Gail gives to Aquaman, or Martian Manhunter’s total break of character, really adds levity into the scene. Walsh also colors himself on the book. Once again, he evolves, showing a new facet of his skills. The last 4 pages, as Golden Gail flies through a stormy city, are some of my favorites pages from this year. The colors, particularly the black, feel so tactile they made me want to reach out and feel the page. 

Overall: Great Michael Walsh art and strong characterization leads this blockbuster mashup. Essential for Black Hammer fans, it may also work as a nice intro to the universe for DC fans tempted to explore another book. Black Hammer Justice League #3 is filled with humor and heartbreak in equal measure, confidently told throughout. 9.010

Black Hammer Justice League #3
Jeff Lemire
Artist: Michael Walsh
Letters: Nate Piekos 
Publisher: Dark Horse and DC
Price: $3.99

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Nick Couture is a video producer living in Lansing, Michigan with his wife and daughter. His first love is film but comics have been a constant source of creative fuel for him for many years. He loves drinking coffee and long-distance running.