Friday, 27 January 2017

Sledgehammer 44 Review (Mike Mignola, Jason Latour)

A powerful new Allied weapon enters the closing stages of World War 2: Sledgehammer 44, a robot imbued with supernatural Vril power. But during a mission to retrieve a prisoner and experimental plane, Sledgehammer 44 comes up against a formidable Nazi figure: the Black Flame!

Though Sledgehammer 44 turns out to be a fairly uninteresting dude, nor are his stories particularly memorable, the book is not without its charms. The first two-issue arc introduces us to the character and tells us a bit about him, what he is, what he can do, etc. It’s not a bad story but not a very impressive one either – spirits haunting physical suits is a very common theme in Mike Mignola’s comics as are strong man characters! Jason Latour’s art is ok but feels a little sketchy and rushed. 

The second and final three-issue arc sees Sledgehammer 44 (what an unwieldy name!) go up against the Black Flame. The story is minimal, a contrivance to get these two fighting Dragon Ball Z-style, in the sky, smashing each other as hard as possible. While it’s more superhero-y than we usually get in Mignola’s books, it looks awesome – Laurence Campbell’s art is great and his photorealistic style makes the Black Flame look really chilling, like when he lands on the airplane wing and starts walking towards the reader! 

The irony is that in his own book, we don’t really get to know who Sledgehammer 44 is. When he’s not punching or blowing stuff up, he’s gloomy and silent with the reader rarely given the occasional glimpse into his mind. Instead of delving into his background we get page after page of, sigh, characters punching each other some more. It’s not exactly the most compelling character portrait and, in keeping the reader at arm’s length, makes it hard to care about him. 

Even though the stories and characters are underdeveloped, Mignola and co. can still just about hold your attention and while I was never on the edge of my seat, I was more-or-less engaged – Nazis and Mignola, you can rarely go wrong with that pairing! - and Laurence Campbell’s art is straight dope. But Sledgehammer 44 is basically just for fans of the Mignola-verse who dig the writer’s style and aren’t too bothered about his (increasingly frequent) lack of substance.

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