When a young, middle-class Mexican couple targeted for death by the Juarez Cartel flee across the border into Texas, they wander into a house of horrors beyond their wildest imagination. Rescued by a mysterious local who takes them to the safety of his family’s ranch, the couple soon realize their hosts have more than just skeletons in their closet, and the army of assassins on their trail might be the least of their problems.
By the time you get through the first issue of Red Border, you’ve already been on a heck of a rollercoaster. The story starts with a casual dinner between friends in Mexico that gets interrupted much like Barbara Gordon’s conversation with her father Jim in Batman: The Killing Joke: violently. Soon, one of the couples is on the lam from a drug cartel and headed for the Texas border seeking refuge in the United States.
After accepting an uneasy alliance with another refugee, Tito, and an American with the Texas-sized name Raymond Colby Benson the Third, anyone who’s seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House of 1000 Corpses or Get Out will recognize the feeling of dread watching the couple jump in the back of Raymond’s truck and being driven away.
Red Border #2 starts with another dinner, where we are introduced to the rest of the Benson family who have taken the three refugees under their wings.
Even as the main protagonists hole up as guests in their impromptu “safe house,” there are subtle hints of the horrors to come: drag marks to a basement door, a character’s skin being felt — or inspected — by the Benson matriarch, Momma.
When Momma says, “I don’t cook Mexican a lot but figured it would be nice to make y’all a special meal to feel like you’re right at home” while making “chimney-changas,” we get the feeling that the sweet and charming Momma might be speaking a bit more literally than colloquially.
Red Border — the name easily a play on the sanguine nature of the book’s violence and an allusion to the political affiliation of Raymond Benson — is already halfway through its four-issue run and looks to be ratcheting up the tension.
The main couple, Karina and Eduardo (who are vaguely sympathetic but annoying) quickly find themselves in one untenable situation after another, with the players around them positioning themselves for what looks to be a big — red — showdown.
It’s apparent that writer Jason Starr and artist Will Conrad are using the comic book format to tell a story that could have been — or can be– a solid indie horror film. Red Border could easily pass as a well-made comic book mini-series or a four-part movie pitch — so far.
Red Border #2 from AWA Comics, released June 24, 2020; Written by Jason Starr, art by Will Conrad, color by Ivan Nunes, letters by Sal Cipriano, covers by Tim Bradstreet.