Border Town #1 // Review
The United States is very divided at the moment. The political and socio-economic climates are at a boiling point. Combining those elements with the world of the supernatural has been a recipe for success for the creative team of Border Town #1. The first book in DC’s relaunch of their highly-vaunted Vertigo imprint, Border Town has received quite the buzz for a variety of reasons. It was recently announced that the first issue will be receiving a second printing after it sold out. It also received buzz due to series writer Eric M. Esquivel receiving death threats before attending a panel at San Diego Comic Con. Esquivel is joined by artist Ramon Villalobos and colorist Tamra Bonvillain to tell the story of Frank, an Irish Mexican high schooler moving to the town of Devil’s Fork Arizona on the US Mexico border, where tensions are running high.
Frank is moving with his mom and her boyfriend from Wisconsin to Arizona, after Frank was expelled from school. Frank soon realizes that it’s going to be a big adjustment, and that this town is not all that it seems to be.
Writer and co-creator Eric M. Esquivel has made quite the statement with this books. Modeling main character Frank’s background with his own, Esquivel is able to given the character a genuine feel. Esquivel also give an insightful look into the high anxiety of being the new kid in school, while also examining the blistering hot topic of immigration. He gives a poignant look at everyday life for kids who are trying to get an education to better their lives, while also trying to avoid immigration services at the same time. This alone could be enough for a series with nail-biting tension. Esquivel takes it one step further by introducing creatures of Mexican folklore into the mix. Not only are Frank and the friends that he makes dealing with horrors of reality, they must now defend themselves from the supernatural. These are also not your run-of-the-mill horror creatures. The only one that may sound familiar to readers is El Chupacabra--the “goat sucker.” All of the others introduced, however, are a thrilling history lesson that will delight the readers. Esquivel has laid the groundwork for a radically different story that finds its footing in the horrors of both realms.
The artwork of Ramon Villalobos helps this already intense series explode off of the pages. Villalobos gives the story and characters a pop-art style that give it the distinct feel readers expect from a Vertigo book. The design of Frank and his friends don’t really stand out like some protagonists do in other books; ie superhero titles, save for one, and this is not a knock on Villalobos, as they are everyday normal teens and not superheroes. This more realistic design choice is more relatable. The one that does stand out is a character named Quinteh, another student at Frank’s new school that wears a luchador mask all the time. It will be very interesting to see this character’s arc and why he chooses to wear the mask. Villalobos’ real stars of this series are the creatures of Mexican folklore. They look absolutely terrifying, and the pop art style doesn’t take anything away from their scary design. Tamra Bonvillain’s colors mesh beautifully with the pop-art style. There is a great use of yellow, red, and orange in the background of every panel to showcase the passage of time with the sun. Blood is very prevalent in this issue, and Bonvillain let’s the crimson flow like wine. She even alters it up for the blood of the folklore creatures to keep things fresh and interesting.
Border Town has already built a huge base of both haters and fans, but there is no denying that this book is heading in the right direction. These political tensions aren’t going away anytime soon, so the creative team will have plenty of material to work with. Most readers will also be unaware of the folklore creatures, and that will draw new audiences in that want to learn more about these intriguing horrors of myth and legend. Border Town has the makings of not only a great social commentary book, but also a great horror book that will be remembered for years to come.