Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hammer Locke, Part Three.

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Three years. Holy crap.

Back in the dim and distant past circa 2006, I began what I thought would be a half-dozen post tops look back at the early 90's DC sci-fi comic Hammer Locke. I did a prelim post, and even did the first one, an overview of issue #1, and then...nothing. One thing invariably led to another, and as so often happens to me, I never got around to doing any of the others, although I did do some page scans for issues 2 and 3, which have rested in my drafts queue since at least July 0f '06. Man oh man.

I think it's time I finally got around to completing this, don't you?

And so, at long last, I shall resume this look back. Hope it's worth the wait, especially in the off-chance that you are one of the people who might actually remember the first posts...and now, Hammer Locke #2.

#2's cover, at left, originally had a different color scheme; Joyner put it up over at his dormant website. I like it much better. The second issue picks right up where #1's cliffhanger ending left off, with a huge explosion high up on the Starbridge, just as Archer Locke is introduced to the reader with Lt. Nekemte. Quite understandably, they decide that they had best get to Olympus as quickly as possible, and find out what's happening.

Next is another flash-forward, to the conversation between the now-aged Admiral Nekemte and reporter Felicity Von Starben, in which Nekemte expands a bit upon Locke's mystique and philosphy.

Back to the past- Upon arrival, Locke and Nekemte are confronted with Entropist protesters; as they watch them, they're approached by Webster Christie, and the pair have a friendly reunion:

Note the black scorpion-looking thingy in the upper right-hand corner of the last panel? Well, it attacks the group, including the military personnel approaching- it throttles one soldier and fires a projectile at Locke, which is intercepted by Nekemte as he takes it in the shoulder. Locke then grabs it and makes short work of it, smashing it to the ground. Security head The Phade makes an appearance then, phasing up through the floor. He wishes to examines the thing, and just happens to spill the beans about Amanda Locke's abduction to her unaware dad, which causes said Dad to hoist him up by the lapel and threaten to clean his clock (and also provides the cover image) unless he explains what he means by that. However, he is prevented from taking a swing at the Phade (something I doubt that the density-shifting UNICORN product would allow anyway) when the mechanics in his arm lock up, and Phade skedaddles. He goes with Christie, to get his arm repaired.

Cut to interlude, as Amanda comes to in a cavern full of bells, which hang suspended from the ceiling. As she shouts out to see if anyone's about and can hear her, the bells start to ring, making a frightening racket.

Back to Olympus/Starbridge City next, as Christie and Locke continue to get caught up as he repairs the arm, and we find out where Locke had been in the few years previous. Using GALT, the computer that controls the whole complex, they determine where the explosion damage occured, and when Christie suggests that Locke help repair it, Locke angrily refuses, determined not to be seen as coming back to pull everyone's "sausage out of the grinder", as he puts it. He says he only came back to see ex-wife (and Olympus director) Miranda, then planned to visit Amanda in New York, and then thought he'd emigrate to Mars...which elicits gales of laughter from Christie, interrupted by the sudden appearance of Miranda. Hurriedly excusing himself, Christie makes a diplomatic exit, and the former lovers are reunited at last. Except the pissed-off Miranda is not happy to see him- she blames him for skipping out on her and their daughter after the events which left him in his cyborg state. She charges him to go to UNICORN head Jacob Kingman-Rhee, and do what it takes to find and bring back their daughter.

Next, we cut to the striking image of a young lady with wings, flying up the side of the Starbridge as people look on down below. Click the images to see them bigger.

That's another UNICORN creation, Sahara Skyhawk- and she and her partner Cactus Jaq are being tasked by Kingman-Rhee to investigate the Phade's findings, as he's traced the tech back to a nest of Eco-Terrorists in a place called Arcosoleri, and he wants them, along with the Phade, to raid it and perhaps get a lead on where Amanda Locke might be. Kingman-Rhee, ever the plotter, wants Locke's cooperation with the repair effort, and believes that he'll be more inclined to do so if it looks like UNICORN is trying to find her. Also, ever the bastard, he remarks to the Phade as they leave about how Jaq and Sahara may unfortunately prove expendable. Unaware of this, Jaq and Sahara have a friendly interlude (third page above) that not only points to the Tharn-written "Tales of Faraway" book that will be referred to and quoted often during the next seven issues, but also demonstrates one of the first lesbian relationships between two comics characters that I can recall; Hopey and Maggie from Love and Rockets, Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lass from the Giffen-era Legion of Super-Heroes being the only other ones which come to mind. It's implied more than shown, and it may be more of a one-way thing, but one thing is clear- Jaq has a lot of affection for Sahara, and it least as much as the Code would let it, anyway.

The next scene is a short one, and a direct continuation of the last, and foreshadows a bit as a recuperating Lt. Nekemte (in Arcosoleri, of course) sees Sahara flying through a telescope, and is immediately struck by her beauty. His reverie is cut short by his sister, who informs him that Locke has come to see him, to check on him and make sure the Lieutenant is still "with him", so to speak. We also discover that although Locke created a "stairway to the stars", he has never actually been in space. This scene, to me, scans oddly because (and I have no way of knowing if this is true) as you can see, in the page scan above, that the lettering in Locke's first word balloon looks just a little different from the others; it just doesn't look like the distinctive hand of John Workman. That, and the fact that this version would have us accept that Nekemte is apparently living with his sister and her young child, suggests perhaps that Nekemte was originally intended to be married, and was possibly intended to enter into an affair with Ms. Skyhawk- but that got ixnayed at some point in the development by an editor, perhaps, not wishing to have an adulterous character in his comic book. Again, this is all supposition on my part, but as #3 will show, it would have made a lot of sense as things turned out.

Finally, the issue ends with another look-in with Amanda Locke, as she's confronted by the hologram image of Hugo Tharn himself, in the cavern of bells. He reveals the reason for her kidnapping, and indulges in a little villainous mania before he's done.

And that's the end of issue 2! As #2 issues tend to be, it's mostly concerned with introducing, refining and consolidating the plot threads and characters that will make up the bulk of the series. It's generally a good thing that this was a nine-issue series; it's so dense with exposition sometimes that to try and squeeze all this into four or six issues would have been difficult, if not impossible. That said, I'm not so sure that this (series, as a whole) might not have been better served with a little streamlining...but more about that later.

Hopefully, I'll be bringing the rundown of issue #3 sooner than the length of time it took me to do issue #2...stay tuned!

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