Review - Black Market #1

"What's a hero, really"

What makes a hero is an oft-debated topics in many comics. Some feel it's superpowers, while others feel it's personality traits such as courage and bravery. Regardless of what exactly it is, there's generally something hard-coded within the individual that gets them feeling sufficiently super. Finding what that is and leveraging it for other uses is an intriguing proposition explored by BOOM! Studios in Black Market #1. The issue is written by Frank J. Barbiere, illustrated by Victor Santos, colored by Adam Metcalfe and lettered by Ed Dukeshire.

Ray Willis is a broken man living in what some would argue is a broken world. He's a disgraced medical examiner who's forced to make ends meet by handling corpses at a funeral parlor. The love of his life Shannon is struggling with an illness and it feels as if Ray just can't seem to catch a break. What's more is that the world he lives in is full of superheroes, whose DNA could prove capable of curing all disease. Of course, it only took Ray's estranged criminal brother Denny to inform him of that.

There are more and more books analyzing the relationship between common people and superheroes, but Barbiere takes that analysis in Black Market #1 to a fascinating new level. The appearance of the "real" superheroes in the book isn't really the main point behind it; rather, it's what these superheroes can do for citizens beyond just saving them on a case-by-case basis. And Barbiere does a marvelous job using Ray as a conduit for the story, presenting him as an every man of sorts who's easily relatable to just about every reader. The dialogue moves the book at a very brisk pace that manages to establish a ton of the universe in only the first issue. Characters are introduced in a way that let's you know who they are and you really start to empathize with Ray and his plights.

Much of the art in Black Market #1 looks spectacular in a gritty, pulpy way. Santos illustrates characters with bold, black outlines that blend in well with the settings, which are depicted with similar lines. The character style adds a certain level of cartoonishness to the book, as many of them feel as if they're straight from The Incredibles. That film dealt with many of the same topics as Black Market #1 and the visual style doesn't detract at all from the plot itself. Santos makes every page stand out in its own way and really does a great job conveying action that's over the top.

Black Market #1 is a very strong opening to what should be a pretty awesome miniseries. The unintended transformation of Ray into a villain is well done and the first issue sets up his character arc in a very believable way. Barbiere's tale is woven with very nuanced bits that look to dovetail into a larger, more meaningful event by the end of the issue (and presumably series). Santos adds a pulp sensibility to the book that perfectly fits the concept behind the story, with characters wearing their defining emotions like personality labels. Black Market #1 is a book that everyone should check out and keep an eye on, as it looks to challenge preconceived notions about what really makes a hero a hero.

Black Market #1 is in stores now with interiors below.