Dark Horse Review: BARBALIEN: RED PLANET #3
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Jeff Lemire, Tate Brombal
Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Colours: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Barbalien: Red Planet #3: Barbalien continues to flee the Martian bounty hunter Boa Boaz–and continues to develop a relationship with a young activist under an assumed identity. But past and present collide when Boa begins targeting people in Barbalien’s life.
In Barbalien: Red Planet #3, Mark Markz has to contend with a Martian bounty hunter while protecting his secret identity from his lover Miguel. Readers might, with good reason, think that it would be best for Barbalien to reveal his identity to Miguel. However, this comic is not only set in the 80s, but is meant as an homage to that era of comics. And at that point in comic history, the secret identity was considered sacrosanct.
Also, I think the secret identity is somewhat metaphorical in Barbalien’s case. His being gay is a large part of his identity that is also secret. Mark Markz has been living a life of secrets. That he’s gay, that he’s a Martian, and that he’s a superhero. And he has learned painul lessons from revealing too much of himself to the wrong people. So, it’s somewhat understandable that he is hesitant to reveal all his secrets to Miguel.
However, this issue shows that others knowing your secrets can sometimes be harmless or beneficial. When he is taken to the clinic of Doctor Day, she quickly sees through his disguise and realizes that he’s a Martian. The good doctor is not only okay with his being an alien, but is sympathetic for her gay patients.
I also like to see Barbalien starting to encounter some of the other characters in Jeff Lemire’s World of Black Hammer. I especially liked that his encounter with Doctor Day expands our knowledge of Spiral City a bit. Doctor Day is the daughter of Captain Night and the original Doctor Day, who we only have seen briefly in Doctor Andromeda and The Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows (a.k.a. Doctor Star before Lemire changed the character’s name). I would love to see Doctor Day or her parents feature in one of Lemire’s Black Hammer side projects.
Jeff Lemire has been knocking it out of the park with every one of his Black Hammer titles so far. So, one might fear that the writing might suffer when letting another writer shoulder part of the writing duties. However, Brombal has proven worthy of Lemire’s confidence. He has helped add a deeper dimension to Barbalien’s story that Lemire might not have if he wrote it on his own. While I have been a fan of Lemire for a while, I am less familiar with Brombal. But based on his work here, I will be checking to see what else he’s written.
Barbalien: Red Planet #3 is another fine issue of this amazing series. The writing from Lemire and Brombal is top notch, as is the art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta. This is definitely a series that no Black Hammer fan should miss. However, it’s also a great read for those who haven’t been hooked on Lemire’s Black Hammer books yet.