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Border Town Blends Heritage with Horror

Border Town Blends Heritage with Horror

By Lissete Gonzalez Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

With its blend of real world issues and Mexican mythology, Eric M. Esquivel and Ramon Villalobos' BORDER TOWN is not comic books as usual. So, we asked college student and new fan Lissete Gonzalez to share what it is about this acclaimed new series that speaks to her.

Welcome to Hell…, I mean…welcome to Devil’s Fork, Arizona, the home of DC Vertigo’s newest comic book series, BORDER TOWN.

Writer Eric M. Esquivel and artist Ramon Villalobos excellently blend Mexican-American culture, current societal issues and spooky Mexican mythology in this unique and supernatural teen horror series.

BORDER TOWN #1, which landed in stores earlier this month, is all about introductions. We are first introduced to Frank Dominguez, a young teenage boy who’s moved across the country to start a fresh new life in Devil’s Fork. Aside from accidentally befriending a Nazi skinhead on his first day of high school, he meets friends like Aimi, Julietta and Quinteh, who all experience the strange occurrences going on in their town together.

We’re also introduced to Devil’s Fork, and this town is far from ordinary. It’s located right alongside the United States and Mexican border where racial tension is through the roof and where a rift between worlds lies, allowing bloodthirsty monsters from the Aztec underworld to unleash their wrath on just about anyone. What could possibly go wrong?

Look, I’m just going to start off by saying that this has to be one of the dopest, most fun and beautifully crafted comic books I have ever read. No exaggeration whatsoever. It’s really that cool.

The first three pages of this issue had me instantly hooked and also had me in complete shock. In these pages, we meet one of the many murderous interdimensional monsters scattered throughout the story. They’re the kind of monsters that come straight from your nightmares. I mean that literally—they actually mold themselves to the shape of their victims’ greatest fears (so take note of how each one looks in the context of each panel as you continue reading the series).

The dark humor, adult themes and goriness sort of balance out with the innocence and naivete that the group of misfit kids possess. It allows the story to be both fun and adventurous and dark and twisted at the same time. While I am very fond of the mystic lore, humor and blood and guts in this issue, I admire the Latinx representation in Border Town the most.

I feel like my culture is being represented in a way that hasn’t been done before, and that’s mainly because Eric Esquivel is telling a story from his point of view as a member of the Latinx community. The mini character arc where Frank comes to terms with his own multicultural identity is a very powerful theme, especially for Latinx readers all around because of how difficult it can be to make sense of one's identity. That’s the kind of representation that matters and makes a difference.

Border Town also celebrates and honors Mexican-American culture and folklore in a way that really hits close to home for me, all while telling an effective and captivating supernatural tale.  As someone who grew up obsessing over scary stories about La Llorona and El Cucuy, Mexican mythology was always a major part of my childhood. And after reading this issue, I’ve never wanted a pet chupacabra more in my entire life.

Another admirable aspect of Border Town is that it draws from real life societal issues, like racism, bigotry and xenophobia, that exist in our present day. These issues exist both in our real world and in the Border Town world, but in no way is it a political manifesto meant to move forward any sort of agenda as some people on Twitter have angrily theorized—it’s really not that deep, guys.

While there admittedly are some controversial topics at play like the Nazi skinhead high school kids and the yeehaw MAGA militiamen patrolling the border with their guns, the story isn’t really about that. I mean, you’d expect dealing with that would be the worst part for Francisco having to move to a new state, but it’s actually the racial tension AND those nightmare-inducing monsters that are going around killing people.

Aside from the story, the art and coloring of this issue is so exquisite and beautifully rich. I love how saturated the colors are, especially the intense yellow and orange colors used to depict the radiating Arizona heat from the daytime sky. Huge shout out to Tamra Bonvillain for her amazing work on this. Same goes for Ramon Villalobos’ intricately gritty art style and fine attention to detail in every single panel. He also throws in some really fun Easter eggs here and there, so definitely keep your eyes out for them.

All in all, Border Town’s strength lies in its unique take on incorporating Mexican mythology and horror and mixing it with everyday life.  It has become a beacon of hope for more Latinx representation and is living proof that DC Vertigo is pushing boundaries with its latest relaunch.

BORDER TOWN #1 by Eric M. Esquivel, Ramon Villalobos and Tamra Bonvillain is now available in print and as a digital download.

Lissete Gonzalez writes about film, TV and comics for Look for her on Twitter at @lissete74.