By Will Holden
Writer/ Artist: David Lopez
Colours: Nayoung Kim
Editing: Marcos Martin
Originally published through Panel Syndicate (the “pay what you want” digital comics publisher) and more recently picked up for physical release by Image Comics, Blackhand & Ironhead is an alternative super hero comic with an interesting twist.
The story takes place in a world which is post-superhero, there are no more heroes and villains and all super powered antics take place in a gladiatorial style fight club called the Cages. We enter this world at the funeral of celebrated hero, Ironhead, who was instrumental is creating the Cages and essentially vanquishing all super-evil in the world.
His daughter, Alexia, has taken over the mantel of Ironhead, along with the vast collection of vehicles and gadgetry confiscated from the villains of old, called The Foundation. This is also the corporate entity which controls the Cages and ensures super powered people are not turning to crime.
The other side of the titular coin, is of course, Blackhand. Blackhand was amongst the original Ironhead’s rouges gallery, and whom we learn died in prison prior to the start of the book. Blackhand, however, also had a daughter, Amy, who shares her powers and takes up the title in order to seek revenge or recompense against Ironhead and the Foundation for sending her mother to jail. Through the new Blackhand, we begin to get hints of how super powered people may have been corralled, not always willingly, into using their powers only within the auspices of the Cages. Although superhero comics have often asked the question “are superheroes intrinsically good?” they are normally based on characters where the end result needs to be “yes” so that they can keep selling the character’s books. In a creator owned superhero world, the answer is much less predictable and, at least for me, a much more entertaining reading experience.
Powers in this universe are fairly vague and not completely explored, but that is not the focus this book is taking. The story is centred on the two young women who have inherited, not just a title and powers but also disparate legacies. As we get deeper into the plot, we find out that these legacies may not be as separate as first thought and connections between the two women run much deeper than expected.
The art is excellent, combining a cartoony design with realistic proportions and landscapes. I found the facial expressions to be simple in style but hugely effective, making me feel the emotional moments in the comic and endearing me to these characters. The action is never confusing and movement has been considered from panel to panel, making everything feel very smooth and readable. Interestingly, this book has taken the unusual choice to print in landscape, an underused format for modern comics, in my opinion (See Garfield, Calvin and Hobbs or Polar for more examples). This creates a different reading experience from the usual portrait style, but it
never feels like a lesser version. The layout and design aspects of the panelling are great and make really good use of the flipped page space.
In five issues, I quickly felt very attached to the main two protagonists and the series introduces interesting side characters and world building elements which I hope are expanded upon in future issues. For example, we don’t really get to see much of the Cages, who is involved and how they operate, and I would very much like to see more of that aspect of the world. But what there is here is very enjoyable, full of twists and turns and sets us up for future tails without missing out on a satisfying conclusion to its opening storyline. I feel like only the surface of this superhero universe has been scratched but I am pretty darn invested to see where it goes next.
5 1968 Ford ST40 Lemans out of 5 (read the book, you’ll get it)
You can buy yourself the first volume of Blackhand & Ironhead from these lovely vendors: