Review: ‘Barbalien: Red Planet’ #5 Delivers A Powerful And Impressive Finale
by James Ferguson
The Black Hammer Universe always delivers and Barbalien: Red Planet is one of the most impressive entries in the line. This is an amazing character study about finding yourself shown through the lens of an alien from two worlds.
Mark Markz has been hunted down and brought back to his home planet of Mars. As he faces execution, he realizes which of his multiple lives he really wants to live and springs into action. By leaving his past behind on a bloody red planet, he embraces love and life on Earth, but is it too late? Barbalien: Red Planet wraps up its amazing run with this issue, going out with a bang.
This chapter bounces between the events on Mars and those on Earth, seamlessly moving between key players with ease. What struck me was how this happened on the same page without any sort of transition. Under other circumstances, this would be jarring, yet artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta handles these well, creating clear distinctions between the two settings. It’s more a feel of fast cuts in a movie that works as the stories build tension.
Colorist Jordie Bellaire plays a major part in this too, using a unique palette for each environment while also blending the two together. The images of Mars are hot and oppressive with harsh reds, yellows, and oranges. Those on Earth are a little brighter with a gritty quality to them. It’s like this is what’s real and the stuff on Mars is a fantasy. After the big climax, the next few pages are completely shrouded in red, not to symbolize violence, but to show pain and anguish. It’s such a visceral feeling. Similarly, the final page has a blue hue to it, showing sadness that turns to hope. So much is said with Bellaire’s colors in this issue.
The opening pages set a great tone for Barbalien: Red Planet #5. There are four pages of nine panel grids. The last column is full of drops of blood, getting more and more as we continue to read until it’s practically soaking through the page. As we’re moving between the two settings, it’s unclear as to where this is coming from, however it delivers a powerful message.
Writer Tate Brombal builds to such a dramatic and incredible ending for this series. You can see where some of this may be going and you just don’t want that to happen, but you can’t turn it away. That tragedy is right there and it’s approaching fast. I found myself swept up with this.
Mark’s journey is impressive in this series as a whole, but in this issue in particular. He channels all of his pain and hardships to finally reach out and grab what he really wants in this world. When he takes charge, you can hear it in his voice. Letterer Aditya Bidikar uses a strange, alien font for the Martian dialogue which speaks to the otherworldly nature of the character, yet his emotion really shines through.
Barbalien: Red Planet is another solid entry in the Black Hammer Universe. This one deals with some real world issues with the AIDS crisis to tell a moving story about finding yourself. It’s something everyone can appreciate. It also provides some valuable perspective. Honestly, this is a comic that everyone should read.
Barbalien: Red Planet #5 from Dark Horse Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.