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Barbalien is a character in the comic series Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston. Black Hammer’s characters are homages of heroes and villains of the Golden, Silver, and Bronze ages of comics. Barbalien is the heroic identity of Mark Markz, a play on the names of the Martian Manhunter’s Martian and American names of J’ohn J’onzz. On his native Mark Markz is the son of a man whose dream was to unite the Red Tribes through peaceful rhetoric. Rather than learning the ways of war, Markz followed in his father’s philosopical footsteps. This decision has put him at odds with society. This is most critically evident after a NASA spaceship crashes on the planet’s surface killing the astronauts. The incident sparks a debate between Chancellor Lok Lokz and the hero Jan Janz who want to launch a preemptive attack and Markz who advocates for a sending a scout on a stealth mission to assume human form and learn about them. Lokz alludes to hearing other rumors. In a fit of pique, Lokz orders Markz to volunteer.

While Barbalien is not the last Martian, as was the case with Martian Manhunter for decades until an editorial change, Markz is in effect exiled and cut off from his birth world. Barbalien’s ship crashed into the waters of Spiral City bay. In another hat tip to J’onzz, Markz assumes the identity of a murdered police detective and over the course of several years discovers that he’s fallen in love with his partner Cole who reacts really badly. Homophobic behavior, which is alluded to in a panel of art showing a slur spray painted on his police locker, causes him to resign his job.

Barbalien joined forces with a handful of heroes to face the cosmic threat of Anti-God manifesting in Spiral City to threaten existence. Rather than winning the fight, they found themselves transported to the small rural town of Rockwood. This quaint little burg appears normal to the townspeople whose lives are mundane even in their drama. To Barbalien, affectionately called Barbie, and his compatriots the town and surrounding area comprise the physical boundaries of their world. Living on a farm near the edge of that boundary allows them a measure of privacy and the ability to conduct experiments on how to break this barrier and return home.

Recently, Markz has been reflecting on the abstract concept of faith and how it can apply in life. He’s been attending a Catholic church and is attracted to and intrigued by the new priest Father Paul Quinn. Sensing a kindred soul, Markz initiated a conversation with the priest who is conflicted between his faith and his nature. Barbalien feels close enough to the group that he often remains in his natural Martian form.

Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston give the Black Hammer heroes and characters a rather satisfying ending with the conclusion to Black Hammer Age of Doom #12. Lemire’s resolution to Markz’ and Quinn’s love for each other is very touching.

Shapeshifting, flight, and bullet proof skin in his natural form are Barbalien’s powers.

Barbalien and Quinn the priest first appeared in Black Hammer #1 and his sexuality is shown in issue #3.

Look for the Black Hammer trades and mini series at your local comic shop, book store, or purchase from Amazon.

Art by Dean Ormston and Dave Stewart. The other man in the feature image is Abraham Slam.

All rights reserved 171 Studios Inc and Dean Ormston

May 28, 2020
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