Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Barrier #1 Review (Brian K Vaughan, Marcos Martin)

The Panel Syndicate team behind The Private Eye – Brian K Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente – return for a great new digital comic: Barrier! 

Texas cowgirl Liddy and her Mexican employee Balthazar find a horse’s head on her land, skinned of its hide and missing its eyeballs – is it a message from a Mexican drug cartel who’re using her land for deals, or something else...? On the other side of the border is Oscar, a young Mexican man, making the arduous journey of getting into the States illegally. 

Vaughan’s script focuses on immigration issues as we see the culture of border control that exists in Texas from Liddy’s perspective, to the immense hardships numerous people like Oscar have to endure to make it to America. Interestingly, Vaughan chooses to further highlight this divide by having Liddy’s pages in English and Oscar’s in untranslated Spanish. 

Martin’s artwork is as excellent as ever, switching from the wide open plains of rural Texas to the dramatic sequences of Oscar’s journey crammed full of desperate immigrants hoping for a better life stateside. It’s a credit to the artwork too that, if you don’t speak Spanish like me, you can still follow what’s happening in the story from the visuals alone. I also loved how the two storylines are brought together towards the end by slowly merging the panels and reducing the space between them. 

Like The Private Eye, Barrier is perfectly designed for tablet screens with the pages laid out horizontally rather than vertically. Maybe it’s the electronic screen but Vicente’s colours look especially sharp and striking throughout. 

I would’ve preferred if the Spanish was translated but otherwise this is another superb comic from Panel Syndicate - they’ve done it again! The issue effortlessly draws readers into Liddy and Oscar’s stories before taking the things to a jaw-dropping new level with that inspired ending. 

As with all Panel Syndicate comics, this one’s only available on their site digitally and it’s pay what you want, meaning you can give the guys a few bucks for their efforts or download a copy for free. Given that The Private Eye was both a critical and commercial success for this team, their readership is good enough to reward quality comics justly – I expect Barrier will be no different! 

Here’s the link to the comic (along with the rest of their wonderful catalogue):

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