Border Town #1 – Eric M. Esquivel, Writer; Ramon Villalobos, Artist; Tamra Bonvillain, Colorist
Ray – 8/10
Ray: The way things are going in comics now, it’s almost impossible to separate new books from the conflict that erupts around them online. That’s the case with Border Town #1, the modern immigration action-satire that kicks off Vertigo’s new line of socially relevant titles.
Eric M. Esquivel, the writer, immediately began getting harassed by ComicGate trolls not long after the title was announced, even getting death threats. Thankfully, DC stuck by the creative team and the new Vertigo line kicks off with an entertaining if overly broad commentary on the conflict along the border.
The book opens with a gang of racist vigilantes plotting attacks on migrants along the border, as a Mexican family flees on foot for US soil. Before these two groups can collide, a hideous, sombrero-wearing monster kills the family before turning its wrath on the vigilantes. At the same time, a mixed-race teenager is moving to Arizona with his single mother and her coarse, bigoted boyfriend, and is none too happy. At his new school, the teenager quickly befriends a large Mexican-American teen wearing a luchador mask, and gets the attention of the school’s top racist – who doesn’t seem to know our hero isn’t white yet.
Most of this issue is more of a teen drama than any sort of supernatural thriller.
Francisco, who calls himself Frank, befriends a pair of local girls who don’t seem to trust the white kids at the school and gets himself in a deadly rivalry when the school racist finds out who he really is. What starts as a standard “Fight me behind the school” turns into something much more dangerous when it becomes clear how far white supremacists are willing to go – and then the monsters attack.
The concept of shape-shifting monsters that become whatever the people they’re attacking fear most isn’t new, but Ramon Villalobos’ art is engaging and just cartoony enough without descending into caricature. The scene where the monsters begin appearing in multiple forms is the issue’s funniest. By the end of the issue, we have a bit of an idea of what these creatures actually are – one of the most iconic southwestern legends – and we get a look at our big bad.
The satire feels a bit obvious at points, and the villains are maybe a bit too cartoonishly vile, but this is a strong start. This is a comic about a very different kind of border opening, and I’m intrigued so far.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.