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Review: Barbalien Red Planet #2

BARBALIEN RED PLANET #2

In Barbalien: Red Planet #2, writers Tate Brombal and Jeff Lemire, artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta, colorist Jordie Bellaire, and letterer Aditya Bidikar use the Black Hammer Universe sandbox to show the danger, tension, and yes, joy of being a queer man in the 1980s during the AIDS crisis. The first half of the comic is an homage to ball culture as Miguel, the young Latinx gay activist that Barbalien saved last issue, shows Mark Markz (Disguised a closeted, blond gay man named Luke) around an underground gay club until it is raided by the police. The dark, yet welcoming colors from Bellaire create a vibrant space that is interrupted by the jarring reds of the homophobic cops, their night sticks, and slurs. These are Markz’s colleagues on the force, and throughout the comic, he grapples with his different identities and roles in society: Martian, gay man, and police officer and tries to reconcile them while using abilities to be different things to different people.

Barbalien: Red Planet has done an excellent job of showing how difficult life was for my queer elders. Nowadays, I can go on Yelp and find a decent gay bar or queer-friendly space. Coming out was personally difficult, but being queer is something that is mostly tolerated by members of American society unless you’re a piece-of-shit Republican or Trumper. Rainbow capitalism is a thing, cops show up at Pride, well-meaning, yet tone-deaf corporate grocery stores think that “ally” is part of the LGBTQIA spectrum, and Ru Paul is a fracker. There is an assimilationist streak going on in the queer community (i.e. Lesbian couples throwing gender reveal parties.) where folks try to fit in with our late-capitalist, neoliberal, and fuck it, white supremacist kryriarchal society instead of resisting it. They applaud a racially profiling medium town mayor for being the first LGBTQ cabinet member in the administration of a right of center groper and a gender essentialist TERF and amuse themselves by watching annoying, heterosexual late-night TV hosts act out queer male stereotypes before a bloviating audience. (Aka fuck Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, James Corden, and Prom.)

However, Barbalien: Red Planet #2 doesn’t do any of this and centers on the BIPOC who were critical in the struggle for LGBTQ rights and trying to get the U.S. government to acknowledge the AIDS crisis. In Barbalien: Red Planet #2, Brombal, Lemire, and Walta introduce readers to the Black drag queen, Knight Klub, who is drawn, colored, and even lettered in a larger than life manner. She is an inspiration to queer men like Miguel, who spins stories of her being at Stonewall and assaulting a police officer at the White Night Riots. And Knight Klub lives up to the hype in the comic as she reads one of the raid cops and gives Miguel and Luke a chance to run away into the Spiral City night. The tension between direct action and trying to lay low continues towards the end of the book when Miguel’s friend Rafael channels his inner Marsha P. Johnson and throws a brick into a police station where the cops are planning to “shut down homosexual spaces”. He is angry that the police grabbed his partner Devon, who is HIV positive, and was inspired by Miguel hanging up a Pride flag at the courthouse. However, this is also just plain dangerous even with Markz mediating and trying to make none of his new friends are arrested or hurt. Because I live in an ostensibly more tolerant society, I can’t 100% relate to what happens in this comic, but I definitely have decided to not publicly come out as nonbinary because of pushback and constantly dealing with being misgendered. (I’m using he/they pronouns for now, but really prefer they/them.)

Barbalien: Red Planet #2

These atmosphere of activism and the characterization that Tate Brombal gives to Miguel, Rafael, and Devon are like the velvet to the emotional diamond that is Luke’s coming out story. This is technically his second coming out because Barbalien was exiled from Mars for being gay, sympathetic toward humans, and a peaceful man in a warlike society as shown in his previous stories. Luke is new to being around people like him, being called slurs, and even dancing and definitely comes across like a deer in headlights. However, to Miguel, it looks like he is giving off mixed signals, and Walta does a wonderful job of showing his frustration when Luke shrinks away from a kiss. He is exploring his identity during a volatile time, but there are some peaceful moments like Barbalien hanging out next to a Pride flag in Spiral City’s gay village.

These are the moments to savor between cop raids/attacks, and the most typical superhero/sci-fi part of this comic, which is a basically smartphone-wielding Martian bounty hunter tracking Barbalien down to make him pay for his “crimes” against Mars. The bounty hunter is a fairly straightforward protagonist, but Bombral, Lemire, and Walta draw some ghastly parallels between how he treats human beings and the police treat queer men and don’t pull any punches. They’ll kick down the doors just like the bounty hunter will blast them away with a similar intense color palette from Jordie Bellaire, who does a wonderful job gauging the emotion of each panel from peace to awkwardness and even sadness in a silent sequence where Luke looks at the sleeping Miguel, pictures of him with his partner, and then looks down at his police badge as he tries to reconcile his desire for peace and to do good with his true identity as a gay alien.

Two issues in, and Tate Brombal, Jeff Lemire, Gabriel Walta, Jordie Bellaire, and Aditya Bidikar’s Barbalien: Red Planet is easily my favorite story set in the Black Hammer universe (Black Hammer ’45 is fantastic too.). It’s the one I’ve been able to personally connect to. It’s a soul-searing character study for Barbalien/Mark Markz/Luke, and how he struggles with his identity and place on Earth/Spiral City while also centering the role of BIPOC in LGBTQ+ activism during the 1980s and telling their stories as well. And it does all of this with a superhero secret identity/shapeshifting twist.

Script: Tate Brombal Story: Jeff Lemire and Tate Brombal
 Art: Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Colors: Jordie Bellaire Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy

Dark Horse Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyAmazonKindleZeus Comics

Barbalien Before Black Hammer

A groundbreaking new historical sci-fi series in Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s world of the Eisner Award–winning Black Hammer universe, about identity, survival, and the choices we make. Coming off of his work in The World of Black Hammer Encyclopedia, upcoming writer Tate Brombal, with Eisner-winning artist Gabriel Hernández Walta, pens an origin story set during the heights of the HIV-AIDS crisis in Barbalien: Red Planet.

Mark Markz has found a comfortable life on Earth as both a decorated police officer and as the beloved superhero, Barbalien. But when Mark is suddenly thrust onto the frontlines of the AIDS crisis, his role as a cop raises doubts and he must now reckon with his own closeted sexuality. Growing tensions make balancing his disparate identities seem impossible—especially when a Martian enemy from his past hunts him down on Earth to take him home, dead or alive. Heroism, privilege, and complacency are all called into question, as Mark becomes more-and-more embroiled in the activism of the time and with the man leading its charge—the handsome and headstrong Miguel.

Barbalien: Red Planet #1

Review: The Vision: The Complete Collection

The award-winning maxi-series is collected in this softcover edition.

Story: Tom King
Art: Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Michael Walsh
Color: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

Get your copy in comic shops now and bookstores on November 26! To find a comic shop near you, visit http://www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

Amazon (Hardcover)
Amazon (Softcover)
Kindle/comiXology
TFAW

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
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A First Look at Strange Skies Over East Berlin #2

BOOM! Studios has revealed a first look at Strange Skies Over East Berlin #2, the newest issue of an all-new original series from Jeff Loveness and artist Lisandro Estherren, a chilling and intense thriller about an American spy who encounters a terrifying inhuman threat at the heart of the Cold War. 

Herring has infiltrated the underground bunker where the mysterious force is being held, but his cover immediately comes under threat with the appearance of his longtime foe, Stasi spycatcher Inspektor Keiner. When the fatal influence of the alien force proves too powerful to contain, the bunker is locked down and the American spy is suddenly trapped in a base full of Russians and Germans who are quickly losing their minds to the strange light. With the double threat of the suspicious spymaster and the alien’s mind-bending force, will Herring survive this deadly trap?

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #2 features main cover art by illustrator Evan Cagle, as well as a variant cover by artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta. It comes to shelves November 6, 2019.

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #2

The First Appearance of Charles Gunn in Angel #4

BOOM! Studios revealed today Charles Gunn, the iconic vampire hunter, will make his first full appearance in the next issue of the hit series, Angel #4, reimagining the pop culture phenomenon by acclaimed writer Bryan Edward Hill, artist Gleb Melnikov, along with visionary writer and director Joss Whedon, available August 28, 2019.

After saving the mysterious and troubled Fred from the demon stalking her in Sunnydale, Angel gets sucked into a twisted realm where he is tortured by visions of past atrocities and a mysterious figure with a stake aimed straight for his heart! In order to escape an eternity under the demon’s power, Angel must battle its insidious illusions and defeat his own fears. But little does he know, a much greater evil is on the horizon and he’ll need every resource and ally he can find to help him save the world, starting with Fred, who’s somehow connected to the dark forces surrounding Angel, and the first appearance of a familiar face from the streets of Los Angeles—vampire hunter Charles Gunn—but is he here to help the vampire with a soul or dust him once and for all? 

Angel #4 features a main cover by artist Dan Panosian, as well as variant covers by artists Scott Buoncristiano, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and series artist Gleb Melnikov.

Angel #4

Preview: Angel #4

Angel #4

Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Bryan Edward Hill
Artist: Gleb Melnikov
Colorist: Roman Titov
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Cover Artists:  
     Main Cover:
Dan Panosian
     Preorder Cover: Scott Buoncristiano
     Incentive Cover (1:20): Will Sliney
     One Per Store Variant: Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Price: $3.99

This is it—the stunning conclusion to the first story arc reimagining the iconic vampire-with-a-soul.

Angel must decide which path to follow on his quest to earn redemption and to free himself from this vampire curse—and all roads lead to Sunnydale.

Bryan Edward Hill (Detective Comics, Killmonger), Gleb Melnikov and series creator Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Marvel’s The Avengers) will blow you away with a shocking final page reveal that no Buffy or Angel fan can miss!

Angel #4

Redneck Fans will love this April Fools’ Variant Cover

Bestselling comics superstars Donny Cates and Lisandro Estherren cook up a jaw-droppingly shocking, mouth-wateringly delicious finale to the second story arc of their hit series in—Redneck #12. Image/Skyound Entertainment is pleased to reveal an April Fools cover featuring art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta.

In the smoldering fallout of last issue’s shocking ending, the Bowman clan must escape the tide of blood licking at their heels. But not everyone is fast enough to outrun the crashing waves…

Redneck #12 Cover A (Diamond Code FEB180671) and Redneck #12 Cover B by Walta (Diamond Code FEB188374) hit stores on Wednesday, April 25th. The final order cutoff for comics retailers is Monday, April 2nd.

Preview: Doctor Strange #385

Doctor Strange #385

(W) Donny Cates (A) Gabriel Hernandez Walta (CA) Michael Del Mundo
Rated T+
In Shops: Feb 14, 2018
SRP: $3.99

LOKI: SORCERER SUPREME PART 5
• Get ready for a super-powered wizard’s duel in the Mighty Marvel Manner! Loki, Lord of Liars, versus Stephen Strange, the former Sorcerer Supreme! And this time, way more is on the line than the title.
• Will Loki gain the spell so dangerous, Stephen even hid it from himself?
• And how will Strange pay for the magic he’ll need to defeat a god?

Preview: Doctor Strange #384

Doctor Strange #384

(W) Donny Cates (A) Gabriel Hernandez Walta (CA) Michael Del Mundo
Rated T+
In Shops: Jan 17, 2018
SRP: $3.99

LOKI: SORCERER SUPREME Part 4
• Doctor Strange has acquired the biggest weapon he could imagine to finally take back his Sorcerer Supreme title from Loki. But will it be enough?
• The life of someone Stephen cares about lies in the balance, and where Loki goes, innocent life doesn’t always stay safe…

Review: The Vision HC

It’s Wednesday which means it’s new comic book day with new releases hitting shelves, both physical and digital, all across the world. This week we’ve got the Vision and his family.

The Vision collects issues #1-12 as well as tons of extras by Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Michael Walsh, and Jordie Bellaire.

Get your copy in comic shops today and bookstores on January 23. To find a comic shop near you, visit http://www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.

Amazon/Kindle/comiXology or TFAW

 

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with FREE copies for review
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, we’ll receive a percentage of the sale. Graphic Policy does purchase items from this site. Making purchases through these links helps support the site.

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