In Review: Sledgehammer 44: Lightning War #2
The cover: This is a really cool cover. I like that you think you know what you’re looking at but you really have to get closer to it to see what’s going on. A mustard yellow background has a black smear, similar to the way the Black Flame’s head is drawn, who coincidentally is within the blackness, wearing a German uniform next to a swastika. What’s creating this blackness is the falling form of Sledgehammer who’s falling into oblivion. A really terrific image and reminder to readers of what happened at the end of last issue and a great tease for newcomers to pick this up. Laurence Campbell with Dave Stewart created this memorable picture. Overall grade: A+
The story: Three nights ago in Austria, Elroy, the pilot of the captured flying wing is being tortured by two Germans seeking the secrets of the plane. His screams go off into the bleak night as we transition to “tonight.” The plane that our hero and the Black Flame were on has blown up, and Sledgehammer is quickly plummeting to the ground. As he falls the entity that gave him his abilities (and this is more than open to debate) tells him that his fate is now “Fire. Destruction. Oblivion.” This internal beat-down is silenced when the Black Flame flies (!?!?!) up and plucks him from the sky, noticing the armor is undamaged, though “…the ‘turtle’ inside, he couldn’t have survived.” That’s when the new and improved Patrick Redding blasts the villain a dose of energy from his hand. Meanwhile, Elroy has escaped his bonds while his captors sleep and he pushes several button within the plane. We see how far Elroy gets and then return to the sky battle between Sledgehammer and the Black Flame. It’s pretty stellar. The flame is an absolute monster in his attacks and his dialogue is as vicious as it can possibly be. Sledgehammer finally speaks up this issue and his dialogue is pure G.I. soldier–awesome! It was neat to see how our armored champion’s story meets up with Elroy’s. I loved every moment and line of this issue from Mike Mignola and John Arcudi and am already feeling heartbroken that it’s over next month! Overall grade: A+
The art: The Black Flame is an absolute magnet for my attention every time he appears. This is the most frightening I’ve seen him drawn, even more so than his recent rebirth in B.P.R.D. Sledgehammer is an amazing looking character. His lack of facial features make his every movement seem all the more important and dramatic, and Laurence Campbell milks him for every drop of coolness. The battle in the skies between these fighters is the kind of conflict I looked forward to in Marvel comics when I was young. These images took me back to those childhood thrills. Also well done is Elroy’s tale. His scenes are much darker than those of our title character, but they’re done that way to increase the horror of what he’s going through. I swear the man torturing him will have his head explode at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The planes in his book, I do mean that in the plural, look more like stills than drawings. The best images in this book comes in the second panel on Page 21, which looks like something from a propaganda poster, and the final image on 22. Next issue is going to be epic! Overall grade: A+
The colors: The setting is night, on the ground and in the sky, and Dave Stewart makes this book dark. However, there’s enough realistic lighting to show you who’s who and where they are. When light or energy comes into play you don’t just see it, you feel it. My favorite contributions of his to the book were when Sledgehammer released his energy–Wow! Plus, the sound effects also stuck out really well due to their coloring, which made them all the bigger. Overall grade: A+
The letters: Clem Robins provides all the dialogue, scene setting, and sound effects. I like that when Sledgehammer mutters something the dialogue balloons were normal sized but his dialogue was smaller to denote the quieter tone. Great job on every page. Overall grade: A+
The final line: Incredible fun for fans of supers, WWII, and the supernatural. I want this to be monthly. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for a few years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” He had to give that up to teach 8th graders English for 19 years. He’s since moved to a high school where he’s taught 9th grade and currently teaches 10th graders English. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars or Indiana Jones items online.