Review: BORDER TOWN #1

Written by Eric M. Esquivel
Art by Ramon Villalobos, Tamra Bonvillain, and Deron Bennett
Edited by Andy Khouri, Maggie Howell
Published by Vertigo Comics
Release date: September 5, 2018

Some books are special for one reason or another and then there are books like Border Town. On every level it abounds with the skill of the creators and provides an experience that readers will love to share with others. Though, a Latinx experience is deeply ingrained in this story it is an important book for all readers. It’s a fun story with amazing artwork but it’s also a lesson and reflection of our country and lives.

Eric M. Esquivel sums up the world we are living in with the use of one small border town. It’s a microcosm of the injustices, horrors, and hate that spills out of the news and into our own lives. The worst nightmares that we been told all our lives are fleeting compared to what is happening every day we step outside our door. Border Town clearly shows this by taking the real monsters, us, and contrasting them with mythological monsters. It’s a telling reflection in the mirror that should make each and everyone of us think about what we are doing. It’s more than that, though, in that it also a source of hope. Latinx comic book readers are constantly in search of their own stories and Esquivel has done a great job of portraying the experience of being Latinx in the US. It’s more than just names or vocabulary, it’s the everyday life that confronts Latinx’s that’s portrayed in the pages of this story. Of course, there are the fantastical parts of the story but even that is a solid lock on who Latinx are. Maybe it’s the combination of religion, mysticism, and folk tales but there is a latent supernatural element woven into our lives. Esquivel grabs ahold of it and gives it a defibrillating shock out of his head and onto the page. Story wise Border Town is fast paced, intriguing, and fun writing that will definitely hook all readers into more than one reading and eagerly awaiting the next issue.

Ramon Villalobos line work is intricately detailed and beautiful. It takes the ruggedness, ugliness, and grit of this desert town and translated it to the page. The effects that this town has on its citizens is obvious as even on kids that should be youthful there is a toll. There is a weathering to them that communicates a wearing down that effects everyone and everything. Looking through the pages will reveal lots of beautiful details to the readers. Of course, since this is a Vertigo book there are more than enough DC easter eggs in plain and not so plain sight. More importantly and interestingly are the details found in the creature designs. They all have idiosyncrasies that give them more life than just being drawings of cool monsters. Just as interesting as the monsters are the horrible people that Villalobos brings to life. They look rough and ugly and in many ways, more scary than the creature monsters. It’s the texturing that he covers everything with that adds to the depth of reality of the drawings. The colors that are laid down on top of Villalobos linework take the textures one step further.

Without a doubt this is some of Tamra Bonvillain’s best coloring work yet. She has taken the mystery and fantastical elements of the story and imbued them with a vibrant glow of colors. The world of Border Town is made better by her expertise. The tones used to provide the desert warmth also captures the spirit of this part of the country. Bonvillain always does an excellent job of using colors to translate light falling on objects in her pages but in Border Town she has outdone herself. Even if you don’t see the actual sun drawn on the page you do see the effects of the long rays of sunlight stretching across the land and the characters. It also further drives home that this town is more than just a border town between two countries but also on the border of here and the mystical there.  As mentioned previously Bonvillain’s colors combined with Villalobos’ linework give textured depth to the pages. Her portrayal of shadows gives a three-dimensional feel to the flat pages and help to separate the intricate drawings from each other. It creates a much-needed natural depth of field.  Even if the rest of the book was bad (which it definitely is not) the color work alone would bring back readers time and again.

Deron Bennett takes very good care of the lettering for the story. The dialogue is clear and concise, and the sound effects are effectively concussive. The voices for the creatures are nicely communicated and given the scary impact they deserve.

Overall Border Town is not only an important book it is a very well put together book. The story is solid, linework is beautiful and the colors take the entire package to the next level. For Latinx readers it brings their stories to the mainstream and for all readers it is full of lessons and entertainment. This series will definitely be one long remembered.

The Verdict 10/10

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