Well that was disappointing. We’re three issues into Black Market, and it has yet to do anything that surprises me. I’m not asking that every comic have the type of wicked plot development of The Walking Dead, but it’d be nice if the repercussions of characters’ decisions weren’t as transparent as they are in this comic. Our protagonist Ray Willis has moved from sympathetic and simplistic guy way in over his head to just a very stupid man who doesn’t know when to quit. At long last this issue reveals what exactly caused Ray to lose his medical examiner’s license and his job with the police, and it was definitely underwhelming. Seeing the events as they actually occurred does little to develop Ray or Denny as characters, and only looks included to set up the next issue’s antagonist. This comic hopes to complicate the notion that Supers are innately good, but it does so by taking Supers to the other simplistic extreme, portraying them as arrogant and sociopathic with little room for moral ambiguity. According to Frank J. Barberie’s depiction, Ray is the comic’s hero just because he’s a little less crappy than the Supers that populate this world.
In the comic’s present, we return to the end of last issue where two of Ray’s former police colleagues make him an offer that looks to potentially ruin the operation him and his brother have. Determining that they need to stop the police’s plans, their enforcer Al enlists a hero called Tiger Bomb. From there, the comic jumps between Ray’s capture in the past and the present with Tiger Bomb confronting the police and laying a smack down in a pretty great costume that’s part Wolverine/ part Batman.
The opening page of this issue talks about cognitive dissonance, the ability to rationalize when we behave in a manner that we would otherwise consider immoral over images of Ray mending his brother Denny’s accomplice’s wound. It’s meant to paint Ray’s decision to assist Denny as one that’s out of character for him. The problem is that nothing so far in the comic shows us that Ray is anything other than a somewhat intelligent, but cowardly guy who lets his brother dictate his decisions. Although his relationship with his wife and his need to fund her medical care is supposed to make his criminal involvement understandable in a Walter White sorta way, not enough time is spent in showing why their relationship matters so much to him other than the fact that she’s his wife and that, as the cops in this issue point out, she make a good cup of coffee. While previous issues seemed intent on developing her as a character of her own, here she’s relegated to the role of blissfully ignorant spouse who has zero suspicions of her husband’s behavior despite his previous criminal involvement.
Even though I really dislike the lack of visual distinction between scenes in the past and present (I had to flip back and forth a few times to figure out when an event is happening), I do mostly enjoy Victor Santos’s art. The assault on the cops by Tiger Bomb is even more visceral due to the minimalistic character and background design, Santos investing much of his energy into giving characters the perfect maniacal facial expressions with Adam Metcalfe’s colors perfectly accenting each character’s most standout qualities.
Now that the comic can stop devoting time to the mystery of Ray’s fall from grace, I believe that things will get better from here on out. The cliffhanger seems poised to put the characters into some peril next issue, and I hope that means that at least one of the annoying brothers will get a super punch through the gut.
Writer: Frank J. Barberie Artist: Victor Santos Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 9/10/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital