General Marvel

Review: Barrier #1

Barrier is an unconventional drama about violence, language, and illegal immigration…with a shocking sci-fi twist. Originally published on Panel Syndicate, the five issue miniseries is a deeply layered entertaining comic that will make you think.

In print for the first time by Image Comics, this first issue is a bit special. One version was released for free on Free Comic Day, but today sees the release of a special collector’s edition in a larger size to match the next four issues which will be released weekly through May. The comic features a cardstock cover, printed in the original landscape format, and is meant to be a durable work of art. You’ll need to get it as these print issues as there’s no plan to collect these issues in print.

So, the printing is special but how about the comic?

Barrier is amazing with a multilayered look at society and those things that divide us written by Brian K. Vaughan. Language, immigration, borders, class, it’s all touched upon and is as relevant today as when it was first released digitally. The story follows two individuals, Liddy, a rancher in Texas, and Oscar, an immigrant making his way to the United States from Honduras. That aspect of the story feels like it’s an even greater punch in the stomach considering the recent migrant train that has reached the border of the United States from Honduras attempting to escape violence and threats to their lives. Through the two of them we see the abuses when it comes to undocumented immigration and the story touches upon the horrors.

Presented in English and Spanish, without translation, the story at first leads you to believe the barrier is distance, or borders, and the ability to seek a better life. This alone is the material for a long comic series and one that would be emotionally heartbreaking. From there the barrier of compassion is explored with a focus on the white nationalism and racism that accompanies the Minutemen and their militant border protection. That too could be a story by itself. And going even further the story then leads you to believe the barrier is one of language as the story of Liddy and Oscar collide. Their inability to communicate due to language is a barrier. And finally there’s… well, I’ll leave that twist to the reader.

But, what especially amazes me is that the story and presentation itself is a barrier in some ways to the reader. My Spanish is near non-existent so reading Oscar’s story is a barrier in some ways to me. The same could be said for those who only speak Spanish. What’s interesting is even without knowing what is said, I still understood what was going on and that’s due to the power of the art by Marcos Martin with color by Muntsa Vicente.

And Martin’s art too is a barrier in some ways. It’s brilliant in that it can tell the story without dialogue but in a landscape it creates a small barrier for those that have traditionally read comics. Digitally I didn’t notice this as much but in a physical format, the holding of the comic in a non-traditional, Western-standard way, is in itself a small barrier in how you interact. It’s an interesting choice that enhances the story in many ways and I found myself enjoying it even more as a physical product.

Barrier is unconventional in every way exploring violence, language, and immigration in a story that weaves together in an unexpected way. Writing this review I have the hindsight of have read the entire series digitally but rereading it all this time later, I can’t help be amazed at how good this is. Now, more individuals can read what is a comic that’s as timely today as when it was first released a year ago.

Story: Brian K. Vaughan Art: Marcos Martin Color: Muntsa Vicente
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

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