Border Town Is A Compelling Supernatural Teen Story With A Social Edge
by Gary Catig
In today’s political climate, there is a heated discussion about people entering the United States from the south and of their treatment. The front lines of this conflict can be found in cities that line where Mexico and the U.S. meet. Devil’s Fork is one of these places, but is also the center for a more paranormal struggle. It is the nexus between the real world and the underworld. In the new DC Vertigo series, Border Town, writer Eric M. Esquivel, artist, Ramon Villalobos, colorist, Tamra Bonvillain, and letterer, Deron Bennett, create a compelling supernatural, teen story with a social edge.
The story follows a group of teens navigating the social and supernatural dangers in their own backyard. Protagonist, Francisco, or Frank as he’d like to be called, has recently moved and is attending his first day at school. While there he meets the hulking but intellectually slow, Quinteh, and two girls who have taken an interest in him, Julietta and Aimi.
Meanwhile, the fear and emotions caused by the racial divide is fueling the mystic forces of the underworld and unleashing terrors into Devil’s Fork unnoticed. These beasts don’t discriminate and attack hopeful immigrants crossing the border and the racist militia that voluntarily patrol them. During an altercation with a Nazi classmate, Frank and his friends finally come face to face with the lurking threat.
Esquivel seamlessly transitions from note to note covering the viewpoints of the immigration debate, building the suspense of the horror scenes and portraying the teenage angst and drama. The dialog is clever in particular the sharp comebacks and quips one would expect from high school students. He also does a good job laying the groundwork for what’s to come.
Of course, the notes wouldn’t hit if Villalobos didn’t execute on his end. His style and aesthetic work well in creating the monsters throughout. In addition, he has a keen eye for teenage fashion sense to help add more personality to the main characters, from the shorts with leggings look, to overalls only clipped on one side, to a fanny pack. Not to mention, Ramon is the king of kicks. He has Vans for skater Frank and sports sandals for Quinteh. Another nice touch is all the Easter Eggs in the backgrounds including nods to DC superheroes, references to Mexican culture and gags.
The other members of the creative team also put their stamp on the comic. Bonvillain’s coloring and shading convey the desert locale vibe. Her impressive use of gradients for the Arizona sky especially stand out. Bennett’s lettering should not go unnoticed with his imaginative approaches to the sound effects. From the use of cursive for a whif sound and incorporating red and blue to the alarm of police sirens.
Amongst the horror aspect and social commentary, Border Town is at its heart a teen story. The main characters are wrestling with their own issues and trying to get by. From finding an identity as a biracial kid, living in fear as an undocumented immigrant, or being a hulking outcast with limited mental capacity.
This was a great first issue to grab readers into this world. It is socially relevant and builds intrigue to why all the supernatural activity is centered in this town. You’re introduced to characters you care about from the start and the artwork is superb. Overall, it’s a fun teen story with the backdrop of the supernatural and a racial tension.
Border Town #1 is currently available from DC/ Vertigo.