This is the second issue to focus on a backstory of one of the characters in the “family.” Although the story does revolve around the theme of alienation, the main character, Barbalien, is an alien after all, that is where the predictability stops. Instead of producing the same tired narrative of a stranger in a strange land who longs for his home, Lemire has created a character who faces true isolation. He also uses this inner conflict to expose other details about conflicts other characters are facing. Another great issue from an outstanding creative team. While the last issue we focused on Gail, this issue we dive into the past of Barbalien. Forced into traveling to Earth to prevent an interplanetary war, from his first moments on earth he faces pain and alienation. His plight in some ways is similar to Gail’s. Both are outsiders and both feel as though they are trapped by circumstances beyond their control. But while Gail’s conflict comes from being trapped in her own body, Barbalien’s struggle comes from a sort of imposter syndrome. This is an exciting new take on the “alien” character in comics. An outsider on his home world and on planet earth, this issue gives us a look as Barbalien searches for belonging.
While Barbalien’s struggle to find belonging is the main frame of the issue we also witness other characters struggles. Specifically, we see his interaction with Gail reveal more about her character. We also see a little bit of Abe’s relationship with Tammy develop, but we also see some foreshadowing of future conflict within the family since as it’s de facto head, anything he does influences the rest of them as a unit.
Dean Ormston and Dave Stewart continue to put out amazing work. Juxtaposing human language with alien qualities, Ormstrom doesn’t just try to make an alien human. He also emphasizes Barbalien’s strangeness for dramatic effect. He truly makes him look like a monster in one particular panel. He counters this close up of his otherworldliness with several panels depicting his all too human feelings of isolation. Who knew a silhouette could be so sad.
The story continues to move forward, diving deeper into characters and raising the stakes for the family as a unit. From the cover of issue #4 it looks like Abe will be getting the background treatment next, and as for rest of the family, it looks like there might be some hope for them yet.
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Black Hammer #3 Writer: Jeff Lemire Artist: Dean Ormston Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital