Vol. 1 ended with the arrival of Lucy Weber, daughter of Black Hammer, to the strange town that the heroes of Spiral City have been banished to. Her arrival also revealed that one of these heroes may have more to do with their banishment than they’re letting on by wiping Lucy’s memory of how she got here. Fortunately for everyone who does want to get out of this place, Lucy has the skills she’s acquired as an investigative reporter and they prove to be pretty useful in picking apart this artificial reality. While she’s doing this, the series delves deeper into the various backstories and current sad situations of the rest of its cast. We find out about the time Golden Gail retired and actually found happiness -- with Sherlock Frankenstein! Then there was the time that Abraham Slam tried to update his costume to try and compete with those younger heroes. How about the time that Talky-Walky and Col. Weird first met, played out against the tragic circumstances of their present. Best of all is the Kirbyesque origin of Black Hammer himself, and how his legacy might be the thing that gets everyone off of the Farm for good.
One thing all of this background-building helps to distract from is how little progress is made regarding the main story of why these heroes are stuck on the Farm and how they’re going to leave. Vol. 2 does end with another significant development that suggests things will really start moving forward with vol. 3. So yeah, “Black Hammer” is certainly asking for a bit of patience from its audience, but I’m not inclined to complain too loudly about it. The series continues to play to writer Jeff Lemire’s strengths as a character-driven writer with the result being that it’s a joy to learn more about his cast than a chore. Main artist Dean Ormston continues to turn in work that’s just on the right side of creepy, and while guest artist David Rubin’s issue is about as far away from that as you can get his depiction of how Talky-Walky and Col. Weird first met is an energetic delight. While the main story of “Black Hammer” does require your patience, getting to know its core cast better here is a reward unto itself.