The story of Barbalien and his search for belonging…
Once again, Lemire surprises with an issue focused almost entirely on Barbalien and how he came to Earth. His story is not dissimilar to DC’s J’ohn J’onnz, in fact his real name is Mark Markz and he also comes from Mars. Like J’ohn, Mark’s arrival on Earth is not entirely his choice. In order to prevent his planet from attacking Earth by way of preemptive strike, he goes along with a pseudo-exile to learn more about Mar’s neighbor. Mark has a secret that forces him to leave Mars and its one that won’t help him much on Earth. Arriving on our planet, he immediately assumes the identity of a deceased cop and stops some criminals with his alien powers. As he acclimates to live on Earth, thanks to his (new) police partner, Mark makes a sexual advance and is harshly rebuffed by the man who was his closet friend at that point. This is an interesting twist that I’ve never really questioned before, but why would non-human male characters automatically be attracted to human females? It doesn’t make more sense for them to be attracted to human males since they’re different species, but its just as possible. The whole time we’ve been reading this series, Mark Markz sexuality has never been mentioned but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t felt alone this whole time. As far as we know, he’s never opened up to another man since that first time on Earth and its left him fearful to try again. By the issue’s end, he plans to and I’m not sure it will end any better.
Another fantastic issue for this series. Every character seems to be getting their own spotlight issue to flesh them out and I can’t wait to see who’s next. Too often writers introduce LGBT characters and immediately put a pause or end on their story contributions. So far, it seems like each character of Black Hammer has some issue that they have cope with and I assume Barbalien’s search for love in a small town will be his. I hope Lemire will take the chance to continue Barbalien’s search without just giving us a quick and easy resolution. Abe and Gail’s stories seem to be teased for further exploration and I think Mark deserves the same.
This issue gives Ormston some wild imagery to play with, like space ships and 1920’s esque crime scenery. The art helps bring out the script’s macabre tone, like when Mark Markz just tosses the man whose identity he stole into the river or when he gets kicked off Mars. The pages of Mark inside the town church are the most unusual, as they’re shown alongside a hymn with bright candles and a statue of the crucifixion. Despite that, Mark seems to savor his time there while the hymn is being sung. Ormston’s art is really good at conveying the sadness that these characters experience, as well as their brief glimmers of hope and happiness. Abe and Tammy’s discussion feels honest and natural, but their facial expressions and body posture tell even more about the characters thanks to the art.
Overall, another Excellent issue from the Black Hammer team. This was TWF material, and while it didn’t win the honor it was a close second. This series is only getting better as it goes along.
Disclosure: Publisher Dark Horse provided a review copy of this comic to Nothing But Comics without any payment between the site and publisher or agreement on the review’s content.