Barrier has achieved the incredible task of not only telling a unique, compelling and timely story but telling it boldly while putting a new demand on readers- the books need to be read sideways. The first book in the series was given out for free on Free Comic Book Day, although collectors will likely want to buy the official version which is slightly larger than a traditional comic book and has a thicker stock for the cover.
The book opens with a ranch hand finding a severed horse head abandoned in the desert. He calls his boss, Rancher Liddy who becomes incensed by the act of violence. She assumes, with a disgusting racist tone that it was “one of those illegals,” who perpetrated the crime.
Flash to the story of Oscar. He is fleeing his native Honduras in a sketchy packed truck. This segment of the story is written in Spanish.
The book then oscillates between the two characters narratives. Liddy is seeking answers about who killed her horse and why they did it. She finds and hires a violent mercenary. Oscar exits the truck to find he is surrounded by armed men and he is forced to run to escape capture and murder.
The story continues back and forth until the two characters meet when Liddy finds Oscar trying to hide on her land. She approaches him with a gun and he can’t communicate to her in English. At this moment of high tension, a strange force lifts them into the sky. One of the final frames is a full page of them looking deep into each other’s eyes as they both realize that though moments again they were enemies, now they will be embarking on an unexpected journey together.
Author, Brian K. Vaughan is best known for his wildly popular series, Saga and the exceptional series Paper Girls. Refreshingly adult in theme, execution, and maturity of storytelling, Vaughan doesn’t spoon feed his readers. They must flip the pages back to remember characters, precise settings, and plot twists. Throughout the series, he examines Illegal immigration, racism, the complications of farm life, all definitions of the meaning of the word alien and how language can separate us.
The illustrations by Marcos Martin are clear, surprising and stunning with bold colors and a variety of different perspectives. Some frames are extreme close-ups, others are sweeping landscapes. Subsequent issues of the book continue the story with another breakthrough, the third book in the series is completely wordless.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publication date: May 2018
Publisher: Image Comics