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Blackmark (2002)
Fiction Review by The Gravedigger

Blackmark (2002) This a sword & sorcery graphic novel (I think one of the very first GN), along the lines of everything from Conan to Thongor to Thundarr the Barbarian. It's thousands of years in the future and the world is a different place, teaming with all kinds of mutants. As far as people, it's basically the Middle Ages again. In the opening scene, Marnie is a young woman who married an old man. Now they are crossing a barren wasteland for better prospects. While her husband is out hunting two riders come to her campfire and one of them is injured and nearing death. This is King Amarix. His companion is Balzamo. Amarix, who has knowledge of old Earth's technology, wants to preserve this and one way to do it is to transfer that knowledge to an heir. He asks Marnie if she'd be willing to give birth to a new savior--but she tells him that she's barren. No problem. He has the technology to alter her body structure--as well as transfer all his memories into the baby. She agrees, though he basically has to pay her to do so.

She gives birth to a son, Blackmark, and he learns very quickly, as if he already knows how to sword fight. After his parents are slain by the Warlord, he escapes and fends for himself. But he's soon captured and put into slavery. Years later, he's in King Kargon's arena. The twenty-one-year old warrior wins his fights but will not do what Queen Lyllith wants--so he's sent to the dungeon. This is where he meets Balzamo, who recognizes Blackmark by his birthmark. Balzamo fills him in about his destiny. In the next fight, where he's pitted against a dragon-like fire lizard mutant, he slays the creature--and manages to board and operate the ancient rocket that's like a statue in the middle of the arena. He somehow knows how to operate the machinery. It's at this point he wants to become a ruler. He defeats Kargon and his soldiers and becomes the new ruler of the land.

Years later, Blackmark's visions of Amarix are getting to him and causing him nightmares and he asks Balzamo if there's a way to stop them. No such luck. Meanwhile, far to the North, mutants plan to overthrow the humans. Again, Blackmark defeats this threat--and it's during one of these campaigns he meets the beautiful Shandra, who he marries. Unfortunately, things do not turn out well...

What I like about Blackmark is that while it has all the trappings of the typical "Sword and Sorcery" hero, he's a tormented individual, one a path he hasn't chosen of his own will. Although the entire tale of this character is compiled in this 30th Anniversary Edition of Gil Kane's barbarian character, the story is open ended and really needs to have a conclusion. Still, good reading.

Written/Illustrated By Gil Kane

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