REVIEW: ‘Border Town,’ Issue #3

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Border Town #3 is created by Eric M. Esquivel and Ramon Villalobos, with writing and art respectively. It also includes work from colorist Tamra Bonvillain and letterer Deron Bennett and is published by DC Vertigo. In the last issue we saw the group of Frank, Quinteh, Julietta, and Aimi seek refuge from bloodthirsty chupacabras in the shop of a curandera after the runt of the chupacabra litter had escaped through the breach in the border between Devil’s Fork, Arizona and Mictlan, the Aztec land of the dead and the world that our folkloric monsters inhabit.

Instead of picking up in the shop, Border Town #3 opens with a history lesson, telling the reality of Aztec culture before Cortes arrived. The panels highlight the height of the civilization and Esquivel’s choice to call the peoples Mexica and not Aztec is striking if you’re a Chicano reader.  Mexica were the Nahuatl-speaking indigenous people of what is now Mexico who would be known as the rulers of the Aztec Empire. In Chicano art and retellings of history involving the mythical Aztlan, Mexica is a way to denote that Chicanos were indigenous to the land, reconstructing a history through poetry and art that was exterminated through the conquest of the “New World.”

Esquivel’s quote on this conquest “Superior firepower trumped the superior culture. It wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last,” comes off the page and hits you in the heart. The one line tells the stories of many people and cultures who have been wiped out or almost so, after contact with Europeans. His choices to use Mexica captures a culture reading that is trying to remember.

After it opens brujeria takes center stage and is explained through imagery and action as opposed to visible word bubble exposition. This takes place through the urging of the curandera. Showcasing the use of patining markings on saint statues, using sage, and salt we can see the world of magic, spelled “magick,” come to form to meet the world of monsters rushing in.

At the center of the brujeria is Aimi, it’s through her that we explore it. We also learn more about her and the other. She also delivers a gut check to readers that Latinx exists in a multitude of identities. She breaks down the backgrounds of each member of the group and confronts misconceptions fo the words Hispanic and Latino, and how they don’t mean the same thing. Prior to what I wrote in my review of issue number one, each member of the group is Latinx and uniquely show. I’m excited to see how the series further explores the issues mixed children face and ideas of feeling accepted by Latin communities when you don’t fit a singular idea of latinidad.

Border Town #3 stays timely, even with the world’s lore coming together. Deep cultural fears, some made more real after election day, are present int he explanation for the chupacabras’ shapeshifting. It also highlights issues that revolve around being a person of color in the United States through off-hand remarks between the group as well through images that make you uncomfortable but are no different the news images no cell phone videos. Today, for many Latinx like me in a state like Texas, this comic offers the validation that our fears are seen by others.

The art is able to be both horror-filled and subtle. In one panel we see a head roll down the stairs with “boing, boing, boing” accompanying it and in another a boot breaking a statue. I will always be amazed at Villalobo’s ability to draw the same creature as an adorable “cheeto-cabra” and a menacing chupacabra in the same issue. The cover of this issue is amazing, especially after reading, encapsulating the issue perfectly. Which may seem like a small note but there many a book on my shelf with covers that are great but don’t show what’s inside.

The partnership between those involved with this book is perfect. From writing to art and colors, the book sings as if a single person worked on it, a testament to their high amount of synergy. However, I believe the art is what sets this book apart from other comics I have on my shelf. Again I find myself wanting to order larger prints of panels to hang on my walls — don’t worry, it isn’t the severed head.

Although I found the story in this issue progressing nicely, I would have sacrificed a few pages of the introduction to the Mexica to understand Aimi’s connection to brujeria specifically why she believes in it and enacts it so quickly. That being said it’s an issue that keeps me engaged in the story and ready for issue number four which will be out next month.

Border Town #3
4.5

TL;DR

Although I found the story in this issue progressing nicely, I would have sacrificed a few pages of the introduction to the Mexica to understand Aimi’s connection to brujeria specifically why she believes in it and enacts it so quickly. That being said it’s an issue that keeps me engaged in the story and ready for issue number four which will be out next month.