Friday, April 08, 2011


Written by Ben Fisher
Pencils by Mike Henderson
Inks Eric Layton
Colors Adam Guzowski
Letters Charles Turpin
Publisher – Arcana Studios
102 pgs approximate

I’ve a passion for reading graphic novels, much more so than the traditional monthly magazines.  The opportunity to sit down and read a big, whopping graphic story in one package is still a treat for this fan. Thus, when “Hexen Hammers” arrived in the mail yesterday, I was thrilled and within minutes was seated comfortably in my office recliner and digging right into this wonderful, action horror fest from the good folks at Arcana.

Ben Fisher is a capable writer and he knows how to set up both characters and situations smoothly so one follows another effortlessly.  Still, one of the speed-bumps in this tale was the time anachronisms.  We’re told the year is 1685 in Salem, Massachusetts and yet several of the main characters wield revolvers and other hand guns that wouldn’t exist for another hundred and fifty years.  Now that is both confusing and jarring.  Yet the story is compelling enough to make me shrug of that discrepancy and plow on.  Hell, this could be an alternate Earth, so I chose to ignore the weapons out of time and concentrate on the plot.

Hexen Hammers’ are four distinctly different men who have banded together, under the guidance of the Catholic church, to seek out and destroy all manner of demons, witches and other assorted evil monsters.  They are very, very good at their job.  Pike is a cold hearted mercenary only loyal to money and the other three.  Father Zachary Porter is a Catholic priest unlike any you’ve ever met before and Richard King is a genius inventor who hears voices.  They are led by a haunted, driven soul named John Hathaway whose sole purpose in life is to destroy demons.  The camaraderie and loyalty of these men to each other, despite their individual natures is handled extremely well and one of the biggest assets of the book itself.

The plot itself is direct and straight forward, they are sent to a small New England town to pick up a witch and bring her back to the Church leaders for trial.  Of course nothing happens as it should and soon the Hammers are finding themselves besieged by horrific creatures everywhere they turn until it becomes clear they have been duped and sent on a fool’s quest by a traitor working for the enemy.

The artwork in this book is stellar, although Mike Henderson’s style of sharp angles and features take a few pages to adjust to.  But once I did, I began to appreciate it for its energy and impact.  His action sequences are powerful and beautifully rendered, as are his characters throughout.  He does an especially nice job on the creepy crawlers.  Visually this book could give you nightmares.  Henderson is aptly assisted by inker Eric Layton and colorist Adam Guzowski, both of which bring added levels to the art. Guzowksi’s choice of color palette was perfect for this adventure and brings to it a moody mystery feel the story requires.

The weak link in the creative chain is the lettering.  Not so much Chris Turpin’s skills, they are adequate enough here.  But rather in the production phase, the word balloons are transparent so that the artwork behind them comes through.  A truly annoying flaw as it often makes reading the damn words difficult when they get lost in the dark colors of the art on which they are laid.  If this process was intentional, then it was a huge mistake on someone’s editorial judgment.  Lettering is a separate art form and deserves to be handled with as much care and attention as any other element in a graphic novel.  In this case it was terribly mis-handled.

Despite the few critiques mentioned, “Hexen Hammers” is a truly powerful, dramatic reading experience that easily won me over.  If you are looking for something new, original and different in a graphic novel experience; something with a solid bite, then you really need to seek this out and pick up a copy.  Arcana has a solid winner here.  Don’t miss it.

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