Review: An Identity Crisis Of Martian Proportions In ‘Barbalien: Red Planet’ #3

by James Ferguson


Mark Markz struggles with his identity and a Martian bounty hunter as this riveting character study continues. This comic resonates for everyone and should not be missed.


The Martian bounty hunter Boa Boaz continues to hunt Barbalien on Earth, but the former is still new to this planet and its laws so our hero is able to evade him for a bit. This isn’t the only crisis Mark Markz is dealing with. He’s still figuring out who he is and who he wants to be, juggling three personalities. There’s the alien hero, Barbalien, the police officer Mark, and the naive Luke who is getting closer and closer with Miguel. He’ll have to make a choice as to who he really is soon before everything comes to a head.

It’s only a matter of time before the truth about Barbalien is exposed. That’s a given. What makes this series (and the greater Black Hammer universe) so compelling is the amazing character work. Writers Tate Brombal and Jeff Lemire put you right in Mark’s shoes. As a cis straight white guy, I don’t have a lot of common ground here, but Mark’s struggles are very easy to relate to and understand. We’re pulled into his story.

Mark is hiding himself from the world and those closest to him. He’s afraid to share who he is. Now that he’s found some happiness with Miguel, he has to come to grips that this was built on a lie. How much longer can get go on?

It’s saying something when the big Martian bounty hunter is just one of and not the most interesting thing in a comic. Artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta does some great work with the transformations in this issue. It’s a pinch of body horror in this riveting sci-fi drama. Boa looks like a ruthless monster when he’s in his Martian form, yet he looks even more frightening when he appears as a human. He comes across as slimy and conniving.

I love how Walta brings out the innocence in Barbalien regardless of the form he takes. There’s a wide-eyed look on his face when he’s a Martian and when he’s the human, Luke. There are some similarities in facial features between the two as well.

There’s a heated battle between Boa and Mark early in this issue. Colorist Jordie Bellaire adds some intensity to the scene by shrouding it in a reddish hue. This creates a tone of violence and rage that’s coming from both parties. Boa wants to see justice served while Mark is fighting for his life and everything he holds dear.

Letterer Aditya Bidikar does some great sound effect work, making each blow have some added impact. The unique font used for the Martian’s speech returns here and is just as cool as ever.

Every time I think I have a handle on Black Hammer, a new and exciting layer is revealed. There is so much to dig into in each of these series and Barbalien: Red Planet is no different. This is a powerful story that resonates for everyone that reads it. It should not be missed.

Barbalien: Red Planet #3 from Dark Horse Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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