Review: Finding Yourself On A Far Off Planet In ‘Barbalien: Red Planet’ #1

by James Ferguson


Mark Markz struggles to figure out who he is on Earth, while in the future, he’s imprisoned on Mars. How do these two timelines converge?


The Black Hammer Universe continues to expand with the next mini-series delving into a specific character’s origins. This time the spotlight turns to the stars with Barbalien. The story bounces between his past as a police officer as well as the future as a disgraced prisoner on Mars.

This shift from one time period to another creates an interesting juxtaposition as we dig into Barbalien’s background and who he is as a character. We also see him figuring out who he is himself as he’s forced to question what is right as he witnesses protests at the height of the AIDS crisis.

In his human form as Mark Markz, you can see the loneliness he’s going through. Artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta captures this well, showing an emptiness in this man’s life. After an encounter with a protester, he may have finally found a place where he belongs.

There are several moments where Walta’s artwork stands on its own, providing a powerful, yet poignant imagery. They speak volumes as to what’s going through the minds of key characters. There’s a great sequence that flashes through a typical day in Barbalien’s life, juggling the different faces he has to put on for the outside world.

Jordie Bellaire uses color to emphasize key moments. When Mark first meets the protester that will change his life, it’s shown as a burst of color. The rainbow flag he’s holding draws the eye as it’s a colorful splash in a sea of drab greys and browns. Most of Mark’s life is this dreary tone and the bright spots are few and far between, even when he’s saving the city as Barbalien. It’s only when he embraces this lifestyle that things come into focus.

The scenes on Mars paint a further contrast. We have to wonder, with these glimmers of hope on Earth, how did we get to this dark and foreboding future on this other planet? One thing that really stands out in this is Aditya Bidikar’s lettering. It’s shown in a truly alien font which helps drive home the sci-fi elements of these sequences.

Black Hammer has always had a tremendous amount of solid character work. Barbalien: Red Planet is no different. Writer Tate Brombal has turned in a fascinating look at this multi-layered character and it’s clear we’re just scratching the surface.

Barbalien: Red Planet #1 from Dark Horse Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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