ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Red Border,’ Issue #1 (of 4)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Red Border Issue #1 Cover

Red Border #1 is published by AWA Studios. The script is written by Jason Starr, with art from Will Conrad, colors from Ivan Nunes, and letters by Sal Cipriano.

In Juárez, Mexico a group of friends having a dinner party are attacked by a couple of men working for a local drug cartel. They are there to kill Karina, one of the guests that reported a crime to the police. Karina and her boyfriend, Eduardo, manage to escape but not before killing one of the men who turn out to be the nephew of the drug cartel’s kingpin. Karina and Eduardo decide that their best option for staying alive is to flee the city and make their way across the border into the United States. Along the way they meet Tito, a young man also trying to cross the border, and an American named Raymond Colby Benson.

Jason Starr’s story so far is intriguing and kept my interest while I was reading it. A lot of that had to do with the pacing. It begins with friends at dinner, then before you know it their dinner party is getting shot up and then you have Karina and Eduardo running for their lives. It had me wondering if they would getaway, or if they would run into the drug cartel again during their escape. This story is a page-turner because a sense of paranoia is built into it since you don’t know who the characters can trust. An example of this is when they run into Tito, who I personally thought might work for the cartel or who might pose a different threat to them altogether.

Red Border Issue 1

Through Starr’s writing, you also begin to get a sense of the personalities of Karina and Eduardo. Karina is brave, rational, and take-charge in comparison to her boyfriend, Eduardo, who comes off as paranoid and cowardly at times. The cartel’s boss, Javier, is portrayed as a horrible, brutal person, in particular in his first scene where he’s getting a massage from a prostitute and he berates her by mentioning how unattractive she is. In fact, this has to be the one moment in the story where I was confused because I didn’t understand why he was insulting her. He mentioned not being able to get aroused because she wasn’t blonde, but at the time he was getting a massage, so I wasn’t sure if maybe something happened prior to this scene that led to this dialogue. It seemed out of place to insult her for not arousing him when what she was doing at the moment was giving him a massage.

Will Conrad’s art for Red Border #1 clearly conveys the actions taking place. Each panel is easy to read along with the narrative and the reader does not have to fill in much. I like Conrad’s placement of panels because there are pages where the panels are superimposed onto a page (and at times a half-page of art) which helps focus the narrative. You’ll see a good example of this on pages 13 and 14. On page 14, in particular, I like that panel 5 is borderless and blends into the rest of the page through the colors of the dawn sky.

That being said, I like how Ivan Nunes uses his colors to show the passage of time on pages 12 through 17. As Karina and Eduardo make their way through the desert, the sky is still a dark shade. But, as the sun begins to rise on the horizon, the purple tones get lighter. Instead of simply coloring the sun bright yellow on page 14, Nunes made it look like actual sunlight with beams you would see if you were watching the sunrise in the morning. Then the colors in the sky become light blue with white clouds after the characters have been walking through the desert for at least a few hours. Finally, as the characters get ready to make their move across the border in the evening, Nunes uses his colors to make the sky appear cloudy, with tones of light to dark gray.

Something else that stood out earlier in Red Border #1 was that the drug cartel’s boss was wearing a suit that resembled Wilson Fisk’s (aka the Kingpin) attire from Marvel Comics. Javier is wearing a white coat, pinstriped purple pants, and has a purple scarf draped over his shoulders. I’m not sure if this was done as a homage or if it was a tongue in cheek situation to show the reader that this is the literal kingpin of the drug cartel. Personally I don’t think it’s something that hurts the story. I found it amusing.

As a Chicano/Mexican-American, I had to read this story with a grain of salt. When I see a story set in Mexico, especially if it’s about the border or if it has Mexican/Latinx characters, I pretty much go in with the assumption that it’s going to have Mexicans as criminals or it’s going to represent Mexico as a place riddled with violence. I was right to a certain extent. However, it is a solid story so far other than a couple of missteps like the drug kingpin’s intro scene with the sex worker. The story kept my interest and I’m looking forward to the next issue to find out what will happen to Karina, Eduardo, and Tito.

Red Border #1 will be available wherever comics are sold on March 18, 2020.

Red Border #1
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TL;DR

As a Chicano/Mexican-American, I had to read this story with a grain of salt. When I see a story set in Mexico, especially if it’s about the border or if it has Mexican/Latinx characters, I pretty much go in with the assumption that it’s going to have Mexicans as criminals or it’s going to represent Mexico as a place riddled with violence. I was right to a certain extent. However, it is a solid story so far other than a couple of missteps like the drug kingpin’s intro scene with the sex worker. The story kept my interest and I’m looking forward to the next issue to find out what will happen to Karina, Eduardo, and Tito.