September 12, 2018

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A Great Start to "Vertigo: Rebirth": Border Town is a Must Read Comic


Border Town #1
Story: Eric M. Esquivel
Art: Ramon Villalobos
Color: Tamra Bonvillain
Lettering: Deron Bennett
Logo Design: Nessim Higson
Variant Cover: Jórge Jimenez


There's been chatter that the new batch of Vertigo comics coming late this year and early next would be some you need not sleep on, but I had no idea that the first one out of the gates would be as good as Border Town. The celebratory event of Vertigo relaunching itself through DC Comics after 25 years to a new generation of readers with seven new series has with it a bar set instantly high. When a comic is as good as this one, it's hard not to re-read it a third time and proceed to tell all your loved ones and acquaintances who don't understand comics that this is the one they need to give a shot. 

Border Town is a story of a mixed-race American teenager, Frank, who we learn pretty early in the story that he has been forced to start a new life in the small town on the U.S./Mexico border, Devil's Forks, Arizona. Frank quickly comes accustomed to his immediate acquaintances making cautious of the friendly who come around. With those are a range of characters spanning from the slow-to-speak-quick-to-embrace Quinteh, two lady skeptic bystanders, Julietta and Aimi, and the owner of the ugliest hands in all of comics, a neo-Nazi named Blake. Mix these counterparts in a crowded high school hallway and surround them with the border monsters of the Aztec underworld looking for the kill and you have one of the best new beginnings in comics in quite some time.

Being a mixed-race teenager in a new town riddled with racism, neo-Nazi high schoolers, and wild javelinas devouring corpses of the refugees who have gotten past the trigger-happy vigilante white supremacists protecting their border, you can only assume that this new beginning for Frank is nothing to stand idly by. And by idle, I mean they'd better keep it moving because the mysterious creatures from the supernatural have got plenty of teeth and tongue to lash about. Confused? To wrap it simply, it's a hybrid of Stranger Things and a first-person narrative of a misconstrued immigration policy in small town Arizona. 

Pretty sure this is gonna turn some heads when it's all said and done. 



Eric Esquivel has written the story of the year here, and has collaborated with the right person to help turn it into a cult sensation by having Ramon Villalobos on board for art. With only one issue to base complete judgement as to where exactly the art will take the story, I can confirm that there are enough layers to the art that place foundation for endless amounts of expectations. One of the more notable takeaways from the art point of view of the story is the lettering. There is an argument to be had for Deron Bennett's lettering claiming it be a character in and of itself. Tone is often lost in the textual culture we live in, but Bennett has created a style of lettering in the pages of Border Town so that you are reading in the exact emotion meant for the circumstance. No small task.

Esquivel and Villalobos have been doing months of press leading up to the release of this book, and upon it's release last week it came with no surprise that it united the comic community with mostly rave reviews scattered amongst a handful of those that justified the commentary presented within it's not-so-subtle message. It was Esquivel himself that described his desire to share a story with the world that expressed our obsession to define people by a single thing when we are all, in fact, parts of many. Esquivel, a native of the Pacfic Southwest, seems all too familiar with this topic firsthand. Border Town should be given some room so it's story can speak to us and we should allow Esquivel some time to say it. 



Make no mistake, our world, our experience, is changing constantly. When we surrender, we leave it to others to define what that change looks like. History has shown us the consequences of inaction. We can and should acknowledge the trauma that we face, but we should not accept it. Indeed, we cannot fight what we do not name, so name it we must, but we can never accept it. We will never get to the other side of freedom if we accept the trauma as a feature and not a flaw of this world.
Excerpt from On the Other Side of Freedom, by DeRay Mckesson 
I foresee this comic to be well read, but, quite possible, not always well received. This is a story that will test our perceptions of the real world as we entertain ourselves with something of the unreal, or as unreal as we are allowed to convince ourselves of it.

There is a lot to be said about this topic. In our culture we practice tolerance by expecting the worst while hoping for the best. Everyone has an opinion. No one is free from the mistake of making an assumption based on another's opinion that assumed you knew the intent to begin with. But we didn't. We never did, and without story's like this one, we may never will.

Though fiction in nature, the real people that inspire the telling of story's like this one are the force needed to change the world. Let creators create. Let victims speak out. Let this comic be read.

Thank you, Eric & Ramon & Co. This timely sensation of a perceived new cult-classic is one I hope to see in shops for a long time.

It's a done deal. Go ahead and take my money now.