Border Town #3 Review

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The Curandera at the herb store knows something about what’s going on, and offers to train the young people in the ways of Brujeria. But as fear leads to hate, and hate rises in Devil’s Fork, what is happening to Blake?

Border Town #3 ReviewBORDER TOWN #3

Writer: Eric M. Esquivel
Artist: Ramon Villalobos
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
Publisher: DC Comics (Vertigo)
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: November 7, 2018

Previously in Border Town: Devil’s Fork, Arizona is on the border not only between the U.S. and Mexico, but also between our world and the land of the dead. A little chupacabra has slipped through to our world, chased by a few of its brethren. They feed off people’s fears, leading to hate and chaos. Frank, Aimi, Julietta, and Quinteh again get involved, this time rescuing the little chupacabra and finding themselves under attack at La Botanica.

UNABASHED AND IN YOUR FACE

Last issue ended with the Curandera at La Botanica indicating she knows Frank, and hinting that they were tied in to something bigger and more mystical. Border Town #3 begins with that history, showing us Aztlan as a land without borders or hate, building remarkable cities that later people preferred to believe were built by aliens rather than by the natives. The trade-off with their gods for this civilization was blood sacrifices to Mictlantecutli and Mictecacihuatl (King and Queen of Mictlan, the land of the dead). While the firepower of Europe subdued the people, the wrath of Mictlan, represented by skeletal people, attacked the invaders. Las Brujas, who remembered the old ways, were the only ones who could keep people safe, and their knowledge has been secretly kept alive and become Brujeria. I love the way this history makes the current world of the story so much richer.

And it ties in with the politics represented here. This story has something to say, and steps up to challenge you, and that may make some readers uncomfortable. (I, for one, like when art has something to communicate, something to get me thinking.) Her tale leads to the present day, when fear and hate are driving the invaders of Aztlan (generations along) who want to send people “back home.” Considering the setting is Arizona, the 18th state to join the U.S., there is a lot of irony here. But in any case, that fear and hate make everyone vulnerable to the wrath of Mictlan.

Back in the present day, at the little herb store, two chupacabras are working on breaking their way in. Julietta comes up with an idea – she calls the police. They arrive and what they see is young people in hoodies – what they most fear at this time – and shoot them. Whatever they see in the bodies scares them off as well. The Curandera (healer) at the shop says they know too much, but she can train them in the art of Brujeria so they can save the town. With a hefty dose of realism, Frank confesses he doesn’t even like the town, and Julietta says she’s black – no one in town would help her; why should she help them? You know, those are fair thoughts.

We cut to a brief scene of Blake, the neo-Nazi kid, in the bathroom, coughing up blood. Where his arm was injured, the skin has peeled off. His grip crumbles the edge of the counter. And he picks up a razor.

In school the next day, the young people try to keep things looking normal and unsuspicious. (Quinteh worries about the little chupacabra, which is sweet of him, and the Curandera is taking care of the little guy.) However, Aimi is taking things more seriously. She takes salt from the kitchen, and makes a circle of it around the school. She takes red paint from the art room and paints a glyph on the wall. She took sage from the Curandera and uses that to smoke the school – setting off the fire alarm and getting herself sent to the vice-principal’s office. There’s more commentary in this scene, but it ends with her explaining the glyph wards off monsters. She dramatically cuts the glyph onto her face with a knife, with the result that the vice-principal has a heart attack.

And the issue isn’t done yet. Blake’s dad shoots the TV after an ad in Spanish comes on. This also sets off a racist tirade, and anger that the enemy he has prepared against all his life turns out not to be an outsider, but corruption from within. And we get to a big reveal about Blake. He’s had a bit of a change.

INTENSE DRAMA AT THE CORE

The art of Border Town #3 is almost otherworldly. The opening flashback is very golden in tone – symbolic, I think, of both the golden age of Aztec past, as well as the European take on “cities of gold” in this land. This is a mature readers’ book, and while we don’t see the child sacrifice up close, we do see a head bouncing down the stairs. There’s a statement there, “Empires are always built upon the foundation of child sacrifices,” that made me stop and think for a while. Then, in a few short panels, we see how Brujeria continued and was intermingled with Christianity. It is remarkable what art can do.

There is a lot of tension in this book, and it is communicated well. This book feels dangerous; it also feels like there are things at stake. The scenes with Blake start out with small details, and grow increasingly terrifying. On the flip side, there are a couple small scenes with the little chupacabra that have some humor, which is a welcome place to take a breath before getting back to the horror.

The four young people at the center of our story are very different in looks, and we learn about their specific heritages here. Now their looks make sense, and I like that while there are threads that may tie them together, they are still very distinct from each other. And the final reveal with Blake – beautiful and terrifying, creating such a cliffhanger for next time.

BOTTOM LINE: BE BOLD – READ THIS STORY!

Border Town #3 is powerful. The creators have something to say, and they aren’t shy about it. The horror is undeniable, but there are moments of breathtaking beauty superimposed on that horror. There is plenty of action and also danger – these young people are vulnerable in so many ways, it keeps me on the edge of my seat.

Border Town #3

100%
100%
Powerful

Border Town #3 is powerful. The creators have something to say, and they aren’t shy about it. The horror is undeniable, but there are moments of breathtaking beauty superimposed on that horror. There is plenty of action and also danger – these young people are vulnerable in so many ways, it keeps me on the edge of my seat.

  • Writing
    10
  • Art
    10
  • Coloring
    10
  • User Ratings (1 Votes)
    0.1
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About Author

By day, she’s a mild-mannered bureaucrat and Ms. Know-It-All. By night, she’s a dance teacher and RPG player (although admittedly not on the same nights). On the weekends, she may be found judging Magic, playing Guild Wars 2 (badly), or following other creative pursuits. Holy Lack of Copious Free Time, Batman! While she’s always wished she had teleportation as her superpower, she suspects that super-speed would be much more practical because then she’d have time to finish up those steampunk costumes she’s also working on.

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