A new week of comics reviews kicks off with some variety. One rich girl gets sent away to prep school in Europe in Archie, while the former heroes stuck on the farm over in Black Hammer meet a significant other.

Black Hammer 4
Written by Jeff Lemire 
Art by Dean Ormston 

The world being created by Lemire and Ormston – despite being limited to a small, rural community – has been a fascinating read. Lemire advances the story of these heroes, dispatched from the world and isolated from everything they knew, in bits and pieces, in flashbacks and epilogues. Outside of the first issue, which established the story, the books have focused on the members of the team trapped at the farm. Lemire has been masterful at making sure his characters connect with the reader, making them as human as possible despite their abilities – or planet of origin.

The fourth issue focuses on Abraham Slam, the ostensible leader of the group and now the de facto patriarch of the family on the farm. As “granddaughter” Gail is a Shazam/Captain Marvel analog and Barbalien is a stand-in for the Martian Manhunter, Slam’s origin story seems to borrow from Captain America – the skinny kid who wanted to go to war but gets turned down. But instead of taking a super soldier serum, Slam trained with a boxer named Punch – no, really – until mobsters killed his new mentor. That’s the beginning of his career. And then, towards the end, we see new, more powerful hero Black Hammer tell Slam to hang it up because he’s getting too old.

The heart of the issue, though, is the family dinner at the Black Hammer farm, which Abe is preparing because his girlfriend, Tess, wanted to get to know his family. Gail acts up, Barbalien acts charming and robotic sidekick Talky Walky gets offended that he’s not invited to dinner. Colonel Weird even makes an appearance at dinner to show Abe how normal he can be when he needs to be. And Tess is suitably impressed, though her ex-husband seems a bit annoyed.

At the end of each of these issues, we get a little bit closer to finding out what’s actually going on, as Lemire and Ormston spend a page or so on what’s happening on the outside world. Obviously, this mystery is what’s powering the story, but it’s especially effective because of how great the ensemble cast is. I’m sure we’ll see where everything is headed soon enough, but I’m enjoying the ride regardless of how long it takes.

Archie 13
Written by Mark Waid 
Art by Joe Eisma

After the emotional gut-punch of the previous issue, where Veronica is taken away from Archie and Riverdale by her sore loser father and Betty is dumped by her boyfriend Sayid because he thinks she’s still pining for Archie, a good laugh from the gang is absolutely needed.

This… is not the issue where that happens.

While Archie moans to Jughead about missing Veronica and Betty tries to get through her break-up by hanging out with her brother, the crux of the issue is with Veronica at her new school in Europe. Veronica adjusts, which she’s forced to do because her father owns all the telecom connectivity in the country and he’s cut off all contact with Riverdale, and she starts to move toward acceptance when Cheryl Blossom makes her first appearance.

I have very little experience with Cheryl Blossom from older Archie Comics, but the issue really does give me everything I need to know: she’s out for herself and she doesn’t really care who she hurts, as long as she finds it amusing. Her mission in her new incarnation’s debut is to bring Veronica into the fold while also embarrassing a scholarship student. She’s good at multitasking, you know.

Veronica has clearly matured from her time in Riverdale, as she helps Julia get ready for a birthday party Cheryl says she’s throwing in Julia’s honor. Without hesitation, Veronica sets Julia up with a whole outfit for the evening and is shocked to discover that Cheryl created a ruse. There was no fancy gala, and Julia was sent to the City dump. Veronica is suitably annoyed by how mean Cheryl was and tries to apologize to Julia, but the damage is already done.

Mark Waid continues to wow with his stories about Archie and they are one of the highlights of my pull list every month. There’s a lot of potential with the introduction of Cheryl Blossom, but I do hope the main focus of the book heads back to Riverdale.

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