Review: Conflicting Aspects Of Life Collide In ‘Barbalien: Red Planet’ #2

by James Ferguson


Mark Markz wrestles with the conflicting aspects of his life as this fascinating character study continues.


For perhaps the first time ever, Mark Markz has found a place where he feels he belongs. He’s not entirely comfortable just yet as he’s wearing someone else’s face, but he’s taking steps towards it. This part of his identity is about to clash with his day job as a police officer and his life as Barbalian, forcing him to choose a path.

Barbalien: Red Planet continues its fascinating character study during the height of the AIDS crisis. What makes this series so enjoyable is not the shape-shifting aliens, but the intriguing character work. Although we might not have been in the same situation, we’ve all been through something like what Mark is experiencing. Writer Tate Brombal presents these feelings of doubt and struggling to figure out where you fit in with a familiarity that resonate very well.

Much of this comes through in Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s artwork. You can see the emotions on Mark’s face as he starts to piece things together. He realizes that he has to make a choice. Something has to give because he’s being pulled in some very different directions. There’s a range to this too, moving from the unsure, quivering look to one of determination when he finally makes his stand.

Mark is pursued by someone from his home planet. I love the way Walta shows the shapeshifting, giving the appearance of a mostly human look while maintaining that alien vibe. It gives off an even more threatening vibe. Letterer Aditya Bidikar uses a really cool, alien font for his speech too.

It’s interesting to see the contrast between this pursuer and Mark. While Barbalien is adjusting his world view and learning who he really is, this alien attacker is the opposite. He’s one thing and nothing can change that. It’s ironic since he’s a shapeshifter, so by his very nature, he could.

Colorist Jordie Bellaire creates a distinct look for each segment of Mark’s life. His time with Miguel, the man he met in the club, is warmer and more inviting. It’s peaceful. When the alien visitor arrives, there’s a neon green that drives home the sci-fi aspect. The colors appear harsher when Mark is in his police uniform, like there’s an edge to them.

Black Hammer is a shining example of what is possible in the decades-old genre of super heroes. It presents something new and different. Barbalien: Red Planet is another great chapter in this saga, digging into one of the central characters and showing how he ticks. It’s a compelling and beautiful story told through the lens of heroes and science-fiction.

Barbalien: Red Planet #2 from Dark Horse Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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