Comics fandom does seem to have taken quite readily to this whole auteurism thing, haven’t they? And very few creators have been as rabidly fetishised more than “Hellboy” creator and black ink enthusiast Mike Mignola, to the point that when he releases a new book, Dark Horse executives throw a party like Jesus just came back.
Well, the party must be in full swing, because the first issue of Mignola’s new (written, but not illustrated) two issue miniseries, “Sledgehammer 44” is out. But is it any good?
The story opens in WW2 and Christ alive, Mike, is it just me or are we a bit fixated on The Big One, here? Maybe I’m just making the common mistake of everything you’ve done except “Hellboy” but can’t we find a nice playground to have people punch each other with fists the size of refrigerators in that isn’t World War 2? How about the Falklands War, or the War of 1812, now those are some conflicts that could have used a few more robots. Just think of it: Atomic Robo Henry Dearborn!
The comic starts with a squad of US soldiers providing backup for a new weapon that gets unleashed on a Nazi stronghold. Originally titled “Operation Epimetheus”, a bombardier on the plane that drops the weapon decides that’s a girly name and writes “Sledgehammer” on the side of the bomb, which is dropped and cracked open to reveal retro Iron Man in a leather jacket, who shoots lightning at the Nazis before getting TKO’d himself fighting the inevitable giant Nazi robot. This leaves the frightened and confused soldiers, convinced there’s a man inside the robot, to lug the poor fellow in a wheelbarrow to help, where ever that may be.
Readers expecting the first issue at least to tell us much about, or even focus heavily on, the title character of the book who looks so frighteningly Mignola-esque on the cover may be in for a surprise, since most of the character focus is instead given to the soldiers sent to back him up (though hopefully it’s explained later on why someone felt a cast-iron Sargent Rock who can shoot lightning from his fists needed backup in the first place) and the book actually does cram a healthy amount of character exposition into one issue.
Though Mignola provides the writing only, the artwork by Jason Latour is quite good, capturing the Mignola vibe of exaggerated proportions and silly-yet-awesome looking Nazi doom-robots while still having a style of his own, with more of a focus on details and less of that “I spilled ink all over the page, eh I’ll just go with it” look.
While it does feel slightly “old hat” for Mignola, with the usual pulp adventure played straight schtick, “Sledgehammer 44” is still a damn fine comic, with good artwork, a fairly straightforward but well-executed plot and enough mystery to encourage readers to pick up issue 2.
At least until Mignola’s next series, Zombie Colossus Leopoldo Galtieri.