Alternative Comics Beat: Sledgehammer 44
By Ken Porter
Written by: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi
Art by: Jason Latour
Art by: Laurence Campbell
Colors by: Dave Stewart
There’s just something absolutely spellbinding about the “Mignola-verse” that you can’t find at any other major comic book publisher. From Hellboy to Lobster Johnson you can find heartfelt storytelling, chilling men and monsters, and adventure that doesn’t show up on the pages of any other books.
When I heard about Sledgehammer 44 I was immediately interested in the story. I picked up the first issue at my local comic book store and devoured it, only to read it again later that day. The only problem is that, due to a snafu with my pull-list, I never got the other issues. When the trade paperback of the series was released I knew I had to have the collection. After reading it I kicked myself for not having caught up sooner. And, when I finished the collection, I knew that I was going to write an Alternative Comics Beat about the series.
The story takes place during World War II as a group of American soldiers provide back-up for a secret mission against a German facility. The mission is to provide cover for the operative known as Sledgehammer -- a man in a giant suit of armor with the power to discharge intense energy. As the soldiers participate in the operation, a freak accident puts a new man in the suit and takes the story in a fascinating new direction. Including the return of a villain once seen in a Lobster Johnson tale.
The Artwork and Writing
Jason Latour, who I raved about with Southern Bastards not too long ago, outdoes himself with the artwork. The character’s faces, the energy attacks, and emotions that rise and fall on each page are well worth the admission. And Laurence Campbell’s story arc has just the same amount of punch and vigor that Latour’s issues have. Campbell’s Black Flame is one of the creepiest renditions of the character, and I can’t wait to go and find more of his work at Dark Horse or other publishers.
Mignola and Arcudi have a knack for playing in this sandbox. Whether it’s together or separate, they know how to weave these tales in and out of touching moments of humanity and examples of war-torn horror.
Why it’s a great alternative?
The WWII superhero is no new concept. While it could be called a mixture of Iron Man and Captain America, there are elements to this character and concept that strays very far away from the Marvel characters. It might be a WWII story, but it’s one of those interesting action and horror blends that can only be found in the Mignola books at Dark Horse. It’s a fantastic alternative from the regular superhero narrative, where everyone is safe and the status quo is always restored at the end.
Who would enjoy this collection?
I think that fans of Hellboy are definitely going to enjoy this series. It’s a given that if you enjoy Mignola’s work and other titles that this one is up your alley. I would also recommend that fans of characters like Captain America or Iron Man give this a shot, or fans of war comics in general. Of course being a fan of Southern Bastards helps for the beautiful Latour art, and anyone familiar with Arcudi or Campbell will want to check out their work in this volume as well.
Ken Porter is presently interning with Cosmic Book News and also writes comic books including "Ink Ribbon" from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year's Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in "Artifacts" #33.