Monthly serialized comics are a relatively fast-moving medium. If a team on a book is really humming, they can create a title and get it on the stands in a matter of months. That seems to be the case with Border Town, a new Vertigo title whose first issue was just published yesterday. Written by Eric M. Esquivel and illustrated by Ramon Villalobos, Border Town feels as current as the day's headlines — for better and for worse.
Pretty much every page of Border Town references some aspect or another of the Trump Administration. The first page features a bunch of xenophobic white Arizonans firing machine guns into the air and shouting "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, MOTHERFUCKER!" But in Border Town, current events are pumped up and made into monsters and paraded through the streets. The town of Devil's Fork, Arizona is being haunted by modern American specters: a white woman is terrified by a figure that looks like a black teen, a man runs from a green-skinned ICE agent, someone else recoils from a giant "tiki-torch Nazi" with sharp teeth roaming the streets. It's the American nightmare in a Halloween mask — or maybe with the mask removed.
None of this relevancy would matter if the comic was ugly. But Villalobos makes reading Border Town a pleasure. He's from the Geoff Darrow school of comics art — the noodly, hyper-detailed work that rewards repeat viewing. (The first issue features cameos from Sandman and an especially beloved Superman story.) And colorist Tamra Bonvillain is doing some stunning work here — the color pallette of the book tracks a single day, from night to dawn to noon to dusk to night. The light in Arizona glows warmly, but all those oranges and reds and blues could just as easily represent a bruise.
It remains to be seen if the plot of Border Town will rise above some pretty standard "there is a pierced vale between this world and the next" supernatural potboiler drivel, but the quality of the art in the book, and the cleverness with which the creative team addresses contemporary topics, will keep me coming back regardless.