Black Hammer ’45 No. 1 review: Remembering the last mission


Black Hammer ’45 is a gritty war tale set in the Black Hammer universe.

The Black Hammer universe, created by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston, is without a doubt one of the most enjoyable and gripping realities ever created in comics. Telling tales of alternate dimensions, space aliens, witches, and superheroes, with a hefty dose of melancholy and mystery, the happenings spread throughout Black Hammer and its various offshoots are highly relatable, even when they’re about a half Elder-God/teenage girl in high school, as in Cthu-Louise. Writer Ray Fawkes, artist Matt Kindt, colorist Sharlene Kindt, and letter Marie Enger have created a visual masterpiece, with a variant cover from Veronica Fish, in Black Hammer ’45 that tells the story of the Black Hammer Squadron, a WWII team that fights various Nazi and Russian monstrosities, a la Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.

Dark Horse Comics

Black Hammer ’45 is about, you guessed it, the Second World War

This magnificently illustrated issue opens up with a veteran reminiscing about what duty and fame means, tending his houseplants as he runs through the various fights he participated in as part of the Black Hammer Squadron. JP, Hammer Hawthorne, Li, and Grips make up the squadron, and we’re treated to a flashback of them taking down a giant Nazi bomber, only to be relieved by the arrival of Golden Gail, which connects the various stories that have come before in a nice way. The squadron takes out artillery lines at Bastogne, smashes weather control programs, and teams up with the Horseless Rider to defeat dragons. All of this is very Howling Commandos, and it evokes a certain nostalgia, which feels sublime. In early April 1945, the squadron gets what turns out to be their final mission: retrieve a scientist family from a German camp. The family’s research has some connection to Colonel Weird, which is another nice tip of the hat. It turns out their arch-enemies, the German Ghost Hunter and the Russian Red Tide, are also seeking to capture the family.

Dark Horse Comics

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Black Hammer ’45 is being told through flashbacks of Hammer Hawthorne, who is in his nineties. He meets up with Li at Li’s Chinese restaurant on April 10, the anniversary of the final mission, and the story segues between them going to meet up with the remaining squadron members and the retelling of the last flight of the team. Through conversation between old Li and Hawthorne, it is revealed that Hawthorne blames himself for what happened on that fateful day. The Ghost Hunter had already killed two squadron members previously to the final flight, and Hawthorne had a vendetta to fulfill. The Red Tide, giant mechanized robots led by a fearsome female sergeant, were the only thing the Ghost Hunter hated more than the Black Hammer Squadron, for reasons as yet unknown, perhaps a love affair gone wrong. Hawthorne, Li, and JP take off, leaving behind their mechanic, Grips, who is now free to leave the war.

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There is talk of duty, whether it be American, German, or Russian, and the Black Hammer Squadron flies over some mountains, only to discover a cloud giant with lightning for eyes and a beard, acting as some kind of defensive measure. There the issue ends, and it’s a fantastic cliffhanger, for we the audience know that things don’t turn out alright. Kindt’s linework and his partner’s watercolors are truly a thing to behold; somber and passionate, they convey multitudes of emotion without being too vivid. This comic rates off the charts and could be said to be critically recommended. Let us know what you thought in the comments section below.