I’m a big fan of comic books that prominently feature ordinary humans in a world populated by super beings. When done well, they can reveal the hazards of living in a world where a person can generate electricity or fly at supersonic speeds, and provide wonderful deconstructions of the superhero genre. Black Market, at least so far, isn’t one of those comics. Despite the interesting premise of a mortician and his ex-con brother kidnapping supers to steal their superpower infused blood and sell it to shady corporation Biochem, Black Market falls flat thanks to a lack of interesting characters and some glaring plot holes. Ray, the mortician, lacks any qualities to distinguish him from the many other meek scientist-types who gets in way over their heads while his brother Denny seems like little more than an asshole looking to make a buck, and is entirely unconvincing in his pitch to Ray and the reader. Shannon, Ray’s wife who has MS, is the only standout with dialogue that makes her much more than a doting wife, giving the comic some much-needed lightness and character.
The majority of this issue follows Ray and Denny as they enlist Bruiser, a former non-powered hero, to help them find supers and their subsequent encounter with a non-costumed Electric Lad. The issue tries to establish the idea that superheroes are not idolized by everyone and actually cause harm to civilians, but given that Electric Lad only attacks Ray and others after they’ve stated that they want his blood, I still can’t say that I think him and other supers deserve to have their blood taken before being hacked to pieces.
After a great first page where a bank robber lies on a mortician’s table with a whole in his chest while Ray and another mortician talk about the impact supers have had on the world, there’s little that’s compelling about this issue. Additionally, like the first issue, this one continues to allude to a past incident involving another super and the brothers that we still don’t know have a clear idea about, which proves frustrating since the incident is the reason behind why good guy Ray has become desperate enough to kidnap superheroes for cash (as well as supposedly finding cures for diseases through their shady dealings).
The only saving grace of the issue is Victor Santos’ art, particularly his page layouts that keep the comic moving at a brisk pace during its talking heads scenes. However, Santos doesn’t do anything very interesting when rendering action scenes with the scuffle between Ray and Electric Lad ending in a pretty clichéd way.
Writer Frank J. Barbiere has got a potentially good story on his hands. If he fleshes out his characters some more, and clarifies Biochem’s motives, Black Market can work its way into my rotation. Until then, I’ll be rereading Kurt Busiek’s Marvels for the fifth time.
Writer: Frank J Barbiere Artist: Victor Santos Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 8/20/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital